Sports organizations (especially MLB recently) and other companies are getting more aggressive about trademark violations. If your podcast title or cover art uses someone else’s trademark, your podcast may have already been removed from iTunes—or you will be removed soon.
Here’s the message you may receive from Apple.
Subject: iTunes Store Podcast Rejected Notification
Dear podcast owner,
The following podcast has not been included in the iTunes podcast directory.
Feed URL: …
Submissions may not be included in the directory for a variety of reasons. For more information, please see the podcast technical specification at http://www.apple.com/itunes/podcasts/techspecs.html.
The iTunes Store team
The immediate fix would be to change your cover art so that it does not use anyone else’s trademarks, and change your title to clearly indicate that you’re an unofficial show. For example, “Batter Up! – Dodgers podcast” would get you in trouble, but “Batter Up! – unofficial Dodgers podcast” should be acceptable.
Whenever you make an unofficial or fan podcast about someone else’s work, which is most likely copyrighted or trademarked, you must not appear officially affiliated with them. I recommend prominently communicating this in five places.
- Visual branding—You should not use anyone else’s trademarks in your branding. It’s okay to look somewhat similar (for example, color scheme or fonts), but never use another company’s copyrighted images for your own or design your branding to look identical. The main point is that there be no possible confusion over whether you’re officially affiliated.
- Title—It’s usually okay to use a trademark in your podcast or website title, but you must also include “unofficial,” “fan,” “unauthorized,” or similar language to clearly communicate your nonaffiliation.
- Website domain—Many trademarks are forbidden from use in your domain name. For example, you would be forbidden from having a domain like MakeMoneywithAmazon.com for your Amazon affiliate site. Check with the trademark owner for clarification, or avoid it altogether.
- Podcast content—In your podcast, make it clear that you’re unofficial. In my Once Upon a Time podcast, I start by saying, “Welcome to ONCE, the unofficial podcast for ABC’s TV show Once Upon a Time.” Disney is happy with this.
- Website content—You should clearly post on your site that your show is unofficial. “This podcast is not affiliated with …” buried in a footer disclaimer is not good enough. Make the word “unofficial” (or similar) visible before the user has to scroll.
If your podcast has been removed from iTunes, make these changes (especially your title and cover art) and email firstname.lastname@example.org to report your compliance and request that your podcast be restored. You’ll still get to keep your ratings and reviews.
All of your podcast information should be changed in your RSS feed. If you need help, please hire me fix your podcast feed for you.
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