Recently, the co-host of the Geeks and Beats podcast posted the news that Spotify removed all 250 episodes of his show. This inexplicable act was the result of a takedown request from Universal Music, caused by an allegation of copyright infringement. The notice, sent by Spotify, did not specify what triggered the complaint, so the show’s host doesn’t know how to respond:
As you can see, we have no idea what’s being contested. All we know is that Geeks&Beats has been kicked off Spotify. And not just for the mysterious offense. All 250+ episodes are gone. Wow. Obviously, though, the sniffing algorithms found something and triggered the takedown. Try appealing to a robot.
It would be great if a copyright identification system for podcasts resembled Content ID on YouTube, where the use of songs is approved and, if desired, monetized. Perhaps that’s on the way. But, Spotify’s present one-strike-and-you’re-toast application of the tool is a problem.
If you recall, SoundExchange and PodcastMusic.com are preparing to launch a music licensing platform for podcasters.1However, I haven’t seen any updates on the launch since August, so I don’t know when this service will finally become available. Drawing upon SoundExchange’s extensive collection of pre-approved masters, the platforms expect labels and artists to set licensing prices for catalog easily, and podcasters to easily obtain those license for their shows. The service will include commercially known songs as the majors come on board.
But how will Spotify’s song-sniffer know that the podcaster acquired a legitimate license from SoundExchange? I don’t see the two platforms ‘talking’ to each other to verify music usage. What I expect to happen: Spotify automatically pulls the podcast down (every episode!). The podcaster disputes the claim with proof of the license, with no idea if she’s sending the correct documentation for the disputed song. And then she waits for the podcast to (hopefully) get reinstated. How long do you think that will take? And if it’s a podcast that regularly uses music from SoundExchange’s licensing platform, then fielding takedown notices could become the podcaster’s part-time job.
The intersection of music and podcasts is more like a collision. It’s a total mess. And the indispensable podcast The Future Of What covers the topic in detail in the latest episode. Listen and feel the frustration of everyone involved.