Author Archives: Gordon Firemark

Is your Podcast subject to COPPA?


Recently, many YouTube creators have struggled with/complained loudly about the platform’s new rules for designating content directed at children. This, of course has led podcasters, too to become concerned and to wonder whether COPPA applies to them.

COPPA, which stands for Child Online Privacy Protection Act, was enacted by the U.S. Congress in 1998 and has undergone some revision, most recently in 2013. The law can be found at Title 15 U.S. Code § 6506

On September 4, 2019, the FTC issued a fine of $170 million to YouTube for COPPA violations, including tracking viewing history of minors in order to facilitate targeted advertising. As a result, YouTube announced that as part of the settlement, in 2020 it would require channel operators to mark videos that are “child-oriented” as such, and would use machine learning to automatically mark those as clearly “child-oriented” if not marked already. In the settlement terms, channel operators that failed to mark videos as “child-oriented” could be fined by the FTC for up to $42,000 per video, which has raised criticism towards the settlement terms. (I have my doubts about whether this passing-of-the-buck can or will actually be enforced, but it’s got YouTubers in a bit of a panic).

But how might this law apply to podcasters?

Well, in a nutshell, here’s what the law requires:

Organizations that (1) operate a website or online service that is “directed to children” under 13 and that collects “personal information” from users or (2) knowingly collects personal information from persons under 13 through a website or online service.

Those website operators must:

  • Post a clear and comprehensive online privacy policy describing their information practices for personal information collected online from persons under age 13;
  • Make reasonable efforts (taking into account available technology) to provide direct notice to parents of the operator's practices with regard to the collection, use, or disclosure of personal information from persons under 13, including notice of any material change to such practices to which the parents has previously consented;
  • Obtain verifiable parental consent, with limited exceptions, prior to any collection, use, and/or disclosure of personal information from persons under age 13;
  • Provide a reasonable means for a parent to review the personal information collected from their child and to refuse to permit its further use or maintenance;
  • Establish and maintain reasonable procedures to protect the confidentiality, security, and integrity of the personal information collected from children under age 13, including by taking reasonable steps to disclose/release such personal information only to parties capable of maintaining its confidentiality and security; and
  • Retain personal information collected online from a child for only as long as is necessary to fulfill the purpose for which it was collected and delete the information using reasonable measures to protect against its unauthorized access or use.
  • Operators are prohibited from conditioning a child's participation in an online activity on the child providing more information than is reasonably necessary to participate in that activity.

An operator is considered as having actual knowledge of a user's age if the site or service asks for – and receives – information from the user that allows it to determine the person's age.  

So, for most podcasters, COPPA shouldn't be a big concern UNLESS your show is directed at (or reasonably likely to attract) an audience of kids, AND you are collecting data about them. (Such as through use of a mailing list subscription tool, or the like). Of course if your podcast is also published on a YouTube channel, you’ll need to comply with YouTube’s new rules about correctly marking your channel and/or episodes. (Youtube's explainer video)

And, if you DO collect subscriber email or other data, it’s probably wise to include a restriction indicating that subscriptions are limited to persons over the age of 13. You should also make sure your website's Privacy Policy and Terms of Use are up to date

Note: Podcast platforms may collect data about your subscribers that you aren't even aware of. Those platforms WILL need to comply with COPPA, and, like YouTube, could end up passing their responsibilities off to their customers. So, be sure to review any changes to Terms of Service, Privacy Policies or User Agreements carefully.

I have a new podcast for showbiz professionals!

A few weeks ago, I quietly began releasing episodes of a new podcast, called More, Better, Faster! Success Strategies for Show Business Professionals.
Today, I released the 11th episode, featuring conversation with Financial expert, Cortlon Cofield, in which we discussed some common financial mistakes creative folks make, and some tips to get set up for success… Check it out, and subscribe.

Do this for your business before the holidays get in the way.

Do this for your business before the holidays get in the way.

Thanksgiving, and the Winter holiday chaos that ensues are just around the corner. Once they arrive, most non-retail businesses can expect things to go into a sort of “standby” mode until after the new year. the entertainment industry, in particular, goes pretty quiet at this time of the year.

A few to-dos

So, before the holidays really start getting in the way, here are a few to-do items you might consider to make sure your business hits the ground running in the New Year.

Protect your intellectual property

For many of us, especially those in Entertainment and Media, intellectual property like Copyrights and Trademarks are our primary, most valuable assets.

Yet many folks, individuals and businesses alike, neglect taking the important (and relatively simple) steps necessary to protect these assets against loss by infringement, dilution or downright theft.

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Gordon Firemark named among the Best Lawyers in America

For the fourth year in a row, Gordon Firemark has been selected by his peers for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America for his work in Entertainment Law – Theater. “I’m grateful for this recognition. It really validates what I’ve been doing” says Gordon who describes his mission as Helping Entertainment Professionals Realize Their Dreams. Gordon Firemark’s… Continue Reading

The Trouble with Tunes – approaches to using music in podcasts (Podcast Movement 2019)

Thursday afternoon, I’ll be presenting my talk at Podcast Movement in Orlando. I’ll be outlining the various ways in which music can be used by podcasters, where the music may come from, and the complex web of copyright and licensing issues that have historically made using commercial music both difficult and costly. Then, I’ll sound… Continue Reading

Actor’s Equity On Strike: What’s it all about?

Actor’s Equity On Strike: What’s it all about?

If you’ve been planning to develop your plays and musicals using professional actors in a “developmental” production environment, you may have to put your plans on hold. Earlier this week, the union declared a strike against members of the Broadway League (the association that represents producers) on development of Broadway shows. The Union’s action bars… Continue Reading

Gordon P. Firemark, Attorney at Law Receives 2018 Los Angeles Award

Gordon P. Firemark, Attorney at Law Receives 2018 Los Angeles Award

Press Release FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Gordon P. Firemark, Attorney at Law Receives 2018 Los Angeles Award Los Angeles Award Program Honors the Achievement LOS ANGELES October 24, 2018 — Gordon P. Firemark, Attorney at Law has been selected for the 2018 Los Angeles Award in the Attorney category by the Los Angeles Award Program. Each… Continue Reading

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