Do You Need to Use Podcast Guest Release Forms?
If you have an interview-style podcast, you've probably wondered whether you need to have your guests sign a release form before recording an episode.
And if you've tried to google an answer to this question, you've likely noticed there's no one consensus answer on the topic.
In this article, we outline the two main perspectives on guest release forms to help you decide what feels right for your podcast.
How do podcast guest release forms work?
A guest release form is a written document that keeps you, as the creator, fully in charge of your content. Once the interview is over, you have the freedom to edit that audio exactly how you want.
So, what exactly do you risk by not having a guest release form?
Recording an episode without written consent leaves the door open for guest who are unhappy with the final product to demand you take the episode down, edit it a certain way, or even sue you and your brand for damages.
Having guests sign this waiver gives podcasters peace of mind in the event of a worst-case-scenario. But not all creators feel release forms are necessary; some podcasters don't ever record an interview without a waiver, and others take a more laid back approach.
Here's the rationale for both perspectives so you can decide which is right for your own podcast.
Option #1: Use guest release forms
Although it's relatively rare, former guests aren't always happy with the way podcast hosts edit their interview. And if you don't comply with their request to change it, the guest could sue for copyright infringement, unfair competition, invasion of privacy, or even demand compensation for the distribution of the podcast interview.
Gordan Firemark, a.k.a. The Podcast Lawyer™ has years of experience working with podcasters and digital creators who've run into legal trouble.
His professional legal advice is to use a written podcasting release form as a simple way to protect your content and ensure creative control. This piece of paper costs you nothing and could save you everything in the future, protecting you in perpetuity.
"Utilizing a podcast guest release form for the guest you interview on your show is about protecting yourself, your podcast, and your business. Regardless of your current audience size or clout level, it's critical that you have a signed release for every guest to avoid any issues now or in the future."
- Gordon Firemark
Gordon also offers podcasters a free, lawyer-drafted release agreement at Podcastrelease.com, so you don't have to craft the document yourself.
The form includes a legal disclaimer making the podcasters' ownership of the material clear to the guest in a simple and accessible format.
Option #2: Verbal agreement
Many podcasters never run into legal trouble with their guests—as long as they're clearly communicating upfront their plan for the podcast episode.
Like a written document, a verbal agreement should occur before recording, so you start out on the same page with your guest. Verbal contracts can also open up a conversation with your guest, allowing them to voice their input.
Keep in mind, this unofficial approach is more laid back than having a written document, so if something goes wrong after production, you don't have the waiver in place to protect you in any legal sense.
Make your own custom release form
Creating your own release form covering all the necessary bases can be a little confusing to do without legal experience.
But if you'd prefer to create a custom guest release form, these tools offer templates that can help make the process easier.
If you go this route, it's a good idea to have a legal professional look over the document to make sure the wording thoroughly protects you and your podcast.
Communicating with your guest before recording an episode is something every podcaster should do—regardless of how. Verbal agreements can help ensure both parties are on the same page but don't provide any real legal protection for you as the podcaster.
Written or digital consent forms can take a little bit of work on the front end but are the best option to ensure full creative control over the final product—and are especially needed if you have a business or brand with higher stakes.