Questions about the proper use of podcast intro music and outro music are some of the most common things people ask me about.

Can I use this popular song? What if I only use 20 seconds of it? Doesn’t that fall under fair use Doctrine? What if I get somebody to compose music for me, can that work?

These are only a few examples of the legal side of what it takes to do a podcast in a way that reflects your personal integrity and keeps you out of trouble.

I decided it was time for me to invite someone on the show who could give us clear answers on these kinds of issues.

Gordon Firemark is an entertainment lawyer who specializes in helping theater professionals, producers, big media companies, and podcasters do the right thing when it comes to copyright law, legal working agreements, and lots of other things that are important for anyone publishing content.

This was a great conversation and I personally learned some things I didn’t know, which you’ll hear me admit on the episode. Gordon is very generous guy who has provided some great free resources which you can find in the show notes links for this episode.

I only used 20 seconds of a song. Isn’t that OK to use for my podcast intro?

If you are depending on the Fair Use Doctrine often mentioned as support for using a small section of a copyrighted music on podcasts, you could be on very shaky ground. In this conversation Gordon addresses the Fair Use issue head-on as it relates to podcast intros and outros. His insight into what Fair Use really means and when it is applicable is very helpful, because it’s very complicated.


There are actually four criteria that are used to determine if use of a copyrighted work falls under the Fair Use Doctrine and is therefore oka:

How much of the copyrighted work is actually being used? – which is typically the only thing people talk about

How substantial is the use of it?

What is the nature of the used portion of the work (the most catchy part of the song VS an obscure section)

What impact will the use of the work be on the marketing of the original work?

As you can see, it’s much more complicated than you typically hear about and smarter minds than mine have had a hard time figuring out what actually falls under Fair Use and what doesn’t.

So what should you do? Unless you have deep pockets filled with cash that you can use in the likelihood that you are sued, I would suggest you steer clear of using copyrighted works for your podcast intro or outro, unless you have clear permission to do so.

And what does it look like to have clear permission to use a copyrighted work? Gordon clarifies that as well, on this episode.

Podcast intro music is not the only legal issue podcasters need to be concerned about

Well it’s clear that we podcasters need to be using music appropriately for our intros and outros, it’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to legal issues we’ve got to be informed about.

The most helpful part of this conversation with Gordon Firemark (in my humble opinion) has to do with how we go about informing our potential guests about the ways we will be using the recording that we make of our conversation with them.

Gordon provides great insight into what a guest should be agreeing to when they come on your show so that you don’t wind up getting sued by them over a technicality. Gordon also provides a copy of a legally crafted podcast guest released form which you can download and tweak to your heart’s content.

I told you he was a generous guy.

But that’s not all Gordon has to offer. He’s also working on resources for digital entrepreneurs – you know, those people who create online courses and coaching sessions and seminars and webinars and resources for others to use. His desire is to help content creators like you and me stay out of the legal woods and on the clear path of integrity.

You don’t want to miss the things he has to share on this episode.

Is that affiliate link you’re citing in your show notes being used in illegal way?

It’s not uncommon to hear a podcast episode referring to affiliate links. Heck, I do it time.

But there is a right way and a wrong way to do it. Much like the issue of how to find and properly use podcast intro music, you also need to make sure that the disclosures you make about your affiliate relationships is done properly. If you don’t, you can wind up in hot legal water.

Gordon Firemark shares the right way and the wrong way to use affiliate links, how to do it both in the text of your show notes and in the audio of your podcast episodes, and whether or not you should call an affiliate a sponsor of your show – all on this episode.

There’s a lot to learn about the legal side of podcasting and Gordon is the guy to tell us what we need to know.

I encourage you to share this episode with other podcasters you know so that they can learn how to do this thing we call podcasting, the right way.

Main Points :

  • [1:08] Why Gordon believes podcasting is the wave of the future for entertainment delivery
  • [2:18] The basic foundation of copyright law and how it applies to podcasting
  • [6:07] What is royalty free music and is it a good option to use for podcast music?
  • [7:38] Podcast music obtained through a composer or artist: How to do it right
  • [13:34] Issues surrounding the rights and liabilities of having guests on your podcast
  • [15:36] Types of things to be concerned about when having guests on your show
  • [18:07] Legal issues of working with a co-host and how to avoid problems
  • [24:25] Can an email agreement stand up in court (if needed)?
  • [28:25] The legalities of monetization and affiliate relationships and how to handle them
  • [30:29] Is it OK to say that an affiliate company is the “sponsor” of your episode?

Connect with Today’s guest : Entertainment Attorney Gordon Firemark



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