Downloadable Radio Shows
September 13, 2004 10:15 AM   Subscribe

What are the legal ramifications of providing downloadable versions of radio shows online?

First, many stations seem reluctant to put up audio clip versions of their show on the web, even if it's streamed live via the web. When they do put it there, it's usually in a very difficult to download and re-listen to manner.

Is this due to the way royalty law is structured? i.e. they pay different if it's live-only versus if you can replay it? Do they make it hard to download so you can't re-distribute?

Is it legal to record a radio show? Can you give that to people.

If so, would it still be legal to compile mp3's of all the songs on the show and make them available to people?

For the record, I'm just idly curious. I listen to the Paul Slavens show on KERA in Dallas quite frequently. It's a great eclectic music show. Been thinking of getting an FPP together about Slavens, the Texclectics, etc. He's very responsive to emails and we chatted a bit. I often don't get to catch all of the show (7-10pm on sundays) and would love to hear it later, and I think other people would too. He's checking with the radio station to see what he/they can do. I'm curious about what I can do.
posted by RustyBrooks to Law & Government (5 answers total)
Response by poster: Wanted to add a few things for those interested:
Some playlists from the show

You can listen live here but only at the scheduled time (7pm-10pm central)

An allmusic link, although it only includes one of his bands, he's been in several. As I recall, the Texclectics is a band that makes up songs on the spot, to match titles that the audience gives. Ones I remember hearing are "The man who ate the 747" and "You Don't Sweat Much for a Fat Girl".

Slavens is probably a north texas phenom only, and a mild one at that. I believe he taught/teaches at the university of north texas in Denton, TX, where I lived and went to school some time ago.
posted by RustyBrooks at 10:25 AM on September 13, 2004

IANAL, but I think it'd be illegal to distribute another station's show via MP3. It's their show, their copywrite, and if they'd rather not stream it or put it on the web, that's their business. However, maybe Slavens has some sort of deal where the station airing the show doesn't have exclusive rights to it (I think most stations demand something like this, but it is a public station, so who knows?)

Will you get in trouble for doing it? I guess that would depend as to whether or not 1) they discovered it and 2) they chose to enforce that part of their copywrite.

I think it depends on the show. You can stream This American Life via the Internet. But you cannot download the Howard Stern Show. Each radio program has their own vision of Internet distribution.
posted by herc at 11:27 AM on September 13, 2004

There are a couple of issues here.

First, it would be illegal for you to simply record a program off-the-air or off-the-stream, and re-distribute it. The copyright belongs to the radio station (or the syndicator who is licensing the content to the station).

Second, a lot of stations don't distribute their programs this way for a couple of reasons. One reason is the bandwidth cost isn't worth the value. Radio stations depend on people listening to the program when it's being broadcast and documenting that in an Arbitron ratings diary. If I live in Chicago and the program is broadcast in Dallas, then it doesn't do the station any good if I record my listening in a Chicago diary. They don't get credit for it in Dallas. So why spend the time doing it?

Will you get in trouble for doing what you want to do? Maybe, maybe not.
posted by marcusb at 2:39 PM on September 13, 2004

Response by poster: National NPR is actually pretty good about distributing content on their site. You can often listen to longish clips or even whole shows, like DIane Rheem or Fresh Air. Local NPR doesn't seem to really allow anything other than streaming.

I would be more than happy to at least *help* with bandwidth to put the show on the air -- and I have a ready supply of high-bandwith space.

I guess no radio station wants to lose control of the content but I think something like this (distributing radio show content) would be a great use for bit torrent, etc.
posted by RustyBrooks at 2:52 PM on September 13, 2004

Response by poster: Kind of redundant to say National and Local NPR (National National Public Radio) but what I mean is that the main npr web site,, DOES have decent archives, the local one,, does not archive local content as far as I can tell. Maybe I should just shut my mouth and make the radio-tivo I've been thinking about.
posted by RustyBrooks at 2:54 PM on September 13, 2004

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