To alleviate copyright concerns, all show materials must be original.
Copyright is only tricky if you’re intentionally dancing in the grey area. The most straightforward answer is consent. If you do not own the material and don’t have permission to use the material, don’t. Logos, musical compositions, slogans, brand names, and sound recordings have creators heavily invested in their artistic works. Respect their creations as you wish to have your work respected.
This rule doesn’t mean you are not allowed to use copyrighted material, just that the material has to be clearly licensed for your use for the show you’re producing. The bottom line is that we don’t have the time or interest to get wrapped up in a lawsuit. And lawsuits do happen.
To share a story, a few of us in here had a friend, Larissa Naples, who was part of the Audio Drama community many years ago. She produced a program called the Realtor and the CEO. The term “Realtor,” it turns out, is a trademark of the National Association of Realtors. Because they didn’t give permission, and because they didn’t like how Realtors are portrayed in the program, they served her with a cease-and-desist notification.
Larissa’s circumstances were an interesting introduction to the problems of copyright. In accordance with U.S. copyright law, her work was not trademark or copyright infringement. The word was used in a transformative context and not to indicate membership as a literal Realtor. She had a case for “fair use,” but she had to pay a ton of attorney’s fees to fight it in court for a judge to make that determination. To press the issue, she would have been up against the money and the power of the National Realtor’s Association to tie up the case in battle after battle, even without a legitimate copyright claim.
The law was on her side, but her finances were not. Larissa had a family to feed. She couldn’t afford to hire a lawyer to help make her case. So with no complaint outside of a blog post, Larissa took her work down.
Since then, we don’t mess around with copyright. We will immediately remove works in violation of copyright. It has been an issue in the past with the 11th Hour, so we are particularly vigilant. Consent is all we ask. In all things.