Bajarin met with Jobs, saw a demo of the iTunes podcast page, and came away impressed. According to Bajarin, a “podcast” tab appears on the iTunes homepage, and clicking on that tab opens the main podcast page, with a featured podcast or two similar to the featured artist pages on various music pages within iTunes.
Some in the community are hoping Apple’s entry will help clear up the murky legal water surrounding music on podcasts. Currently, many podcasts are essentially talk-radio shows produced by amateurs. Sometimes these shows include music, but licensing rules – which have hampered streaming music services – have yet to be established for podcasts.
As a result, many podcasts can play only independent music not affiliated with the major record labels or music which podcasters have specifically received permission to play.
“It’s a gray area,” says Chris MacDonald, founding member and director of legal affairs for the Association of Music Podcasting, a group that showcases music podcasts. “I keep telling people, Be careful.’”
At issue are the myriad licenses needed for permission to broadcast music and the very definition of podcasting itself. Is it a radio broadcast? A download? Currently, no lawsuits have been filed, and until people start charging for podcasts, it’s unlikely the copyright owners will go after podcast makers.
“It wouldn’t be a bad idea for Apple to use its relationships with its licensors to negotiate for music-based podcasts,” says Whitney Broussard, an attorney with Selverne, Mandelbaum & Mintz.
Still, it’s clear that Apple’s podcast announcement will raise the activity up a couple rungs on the popularity ladder. Everyone is interested in Apple’s announcement, says Benjamen Walker, creator of the popular podcast Theory of Everything Radio. Walker thinks Apple’s support is great, but says that some podcasters are worried that Apple will stamp out the little guy.
“But if someone’s going to stop podcasting because they’re not featured on iTunes, they probably shouldn’t be casting anyway,” he says.