What role for copyright in podcasting? : a study of crowdfunding and advertising models in an emerging medium


University of British Columbia

Date Issued


Document Type



Master of Laws - LLM




Podcasts are a relatively new form of media which have grown immensely in profile and popularity in recent years. From the standpoint of copyright scholarship, however, one characteristic of podcasting stands out: despite being protected by copyright, podcast episodes are largely released for free. On one influential theoretical account, copyright’s purpose is to provide creators and publishers with a financial incentive to produce and distribute works. In particular, the exclusive right to reproduction allows the copyright owner to sell copies of a work without being undercut by competitors who could sell the work at a lower cost. The free distribution of podcasts may present a challenge to this “copyright-as-incentive” model and further raises the question of how podcast creators make a financial return in the absence of selling copies. With this in mind, this thesis will consider the following two-part research question: How do podcast creators make a financial return on their work without excluding non-paying users, and what role if any does copyright play in realizing these financial returns? This thesis will establish a theoretical framework based on Nicolas Suzor’s concept of abundance models. Next, a legal analysis of Canadian copyright law will show that podcasts are in fact protected by copyright. With the relevant copyright law and theory established, this thesis will use a study based in content analysis methods to generate data on how podcasts make money. This study will focus on non-exclusionary alternatives to funding creative work such as advertising and crowdfunding, as well as evidence of the use of copyright. The data gathered for this study confirm that all of the surveyed series had free episodes available. Despite existing copyright law protecting podcasts, the study showed little evidence of the use of copyright by podcast creators. This study does not indicate why creators are choosing to make their work available for free. But if abundance models based around crowdfunding and advertising are more effective for podcasts than selling copies, this complicates the utilitarian theory proposition that “copyright incentivizes creativity” and suggests that copyright is insufficient as the only or primary creative policy lever.

Date Available



Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International




Law, Peter A. Allard School of