A settlement between the creators of the podcast S-Town and the family of a deceased man at the heart of the series is a reminder of why producers should get a release from the subject of an interview waiving rights to publicity and privacy, says attorney David Oxenford, who says they also should give a producer the rights to exploit the recordings that are made. In doing so, he says that should help to reduce the risk that state privacy laws may otherwise pose to podcasters.
In a blog post, Oxenford says that although most broadcasters and other media companies don’t routinely face privacy restrictions in their covering of regular news stories thanks to the First Amendment, the equation is different when it comes to podcasts, especially when the storytelling ventures into the stories of individuals who are not public figures. “Podcasts and various other reality programming, in particular, may be more lifestyle-oriented, and may detail private facts about individuals who are not in the news, leading to issues like those raised in the S-Town litigation,” says Oxenford.
There is another good reason to get a release. Oxenford says that when a podcast is developed into a movie or television show, having the rights from the individuals interviewed for the podcast to use that material in any medium may make it safer to repurpose that content for use in later productions. “It also helps to reduce liability concerns if the company creating the podcast is looking to do some sort of business transaction,” he says.
The lawsuit brought by the family of a deceased man at the heart of the podcast S-Town has reached a settlement with Serial Productions, nearly two years after it was first filed in federal court in Alabama. At issue was whether the podcast, which was downloaded more than 92.5 million times, violated Alabama’s right of privacy law.
Serial Productions was sued two years ago by the family of John McLemore. Their attorneys told Variety this week that they had dropped any objections or claims to the podcast or future use of the show or its creative work. Terms were not disclosed. But Serial Productions CEO Julie Snyder also told Variety that she is “relieved” the lawsuit has been settled and said McLemore was “absolutely an active and consenting participant” in the podcast.