A Tale of Two Podcasts.

As a Radio guy, I've had a long history of time-shifting my audio, basically creating a personal radio DVR, using an assortment of hardware and software solutions.

One such example was a favorite weekly quiz show, which I'd record in the evening and play the next morning for my bus ride into town.

One day it occurred to me that if I was essentially making a personal podcast just for me, why don't I contact the show's host and ask if he'd like me to create an official podcast for his show?

An exploratory "May I be your podcaster?" email turned into a meetup, which turned into me putting my off-the-stream recordings into a real-live podcast. Eventually they started sending me high-quality recordings right out of the audio board after each show. By the time the whole thing hit its stride, I was trimming excess commercials out of the show, writing clever show synopses, posting additional editorial content from the show's creative team, and even submitting some audio content of my own.

It couldn't have been a better relationship, which lasted until the host eventually retired, along with the show.

Meanwhile, I had another favorite show, hosted by a respected radio psychologist. She had her own podcast for her daily show, with all the commercials stripped out for the most efficient listening experience. That worked perfectly until a change of ownership bounced her from her original syndicator. She ended up at a different outfit that opted to automate her podcast. Each completed hour was dumped automatically into into a podcast, commercials and all.

Me being me, I was having none of that. I took the liberty of dumping each hour into my digital audio workstation, pulling out all the commercial breaks, and posting the hours into a private podcast with myself as the sole subscriber, to enjoy the following day on my commute.

Concurrently, I joined her Facebook fan page and noticed a substantial number of fellow listeners complaining about the official podcast now having commercials and how inconvenient that was.

Riding the wave of success from my other podcast endeavor, I boldly called up the show's producer and offered my services to provide a handcrafted, commercial-free version of the podcast to soothe a savage audience.

I've never been hung up on so fast in my life.

I then reached out to the show's host directly, since she already knew me from some of my previous submissions of audio comedy material to her show. In a return email she seemed somewhat interested and promised to discuss it with her executive team. Time passed, but I heard nothing. While I waited the Facebook group's complaints mounted, and I could stand it no longer. I put on my virtual Robin Hood hat and declared it was easier to ask for forgiveness than permission. After all, the host was cool, so I was positive she'd find my creation to be the just the coolest thing ever!

I made my private podcast public, and proudly posted a message in the Facebook group.

The reaction was immediately positive from everyone... except the program itself.

Within days, I received a dreaded Cease & Desist letter from the show's lawyer telling me to take the podcast down or suffer the consequences.

I contacted an intellectual property attorney I knew and asked for his assistance.

I naïvely asserted that what was I was doing must be Fair Use, as it was a public service for the good of the listenership at large. He assured me it was nothing of the kind. He then explained that if I retained his services for a hefty fee, he would draft a letter in response, expressing my regret, ensuring my cooperation, and promising that it wouldn't happen again.

Eventually, the whole unpleasant experience went away, but I was left with an ordeal I'll never forget, and with my wallet a whole lot lighter.

For the rest of the show's lifetime, I simply listened to the official podcast and just skipped through the commercial breaks like a normal person.

I share this as a cautionary tale so that someone might learn something from a guy who didn't know what he didn't know. Just because something exists on the internet doesn't mean you can take it and do whatever you want with it. It doesn't belong to you. That's why copyright warnings exists.

I understand that the revolutionary's mindset is often "You're not the boss of me!" But the deep-pocketed lawyers of the world who have the law on their side will beg to differ.

These days, because everyone needs a hobby, I still have over a dozen personal podcasts for various radio shows that I prefer to have time- or platform-shifted, or that benefit from a little audio enhancement for our aging ears. They all contain copyrighted material that doesn't belong to me, but the critical differences is that they all remain safely private, and for personal use only, so as not to annoy any pesky attorneys.