Radio fair use?

I received this mail the other day:

"You are relaying our audio stream for the  ... app unlawfully. You have not asked us if you can do this. Remove our station immediately and confirm by return email within 24 hours.

If our station is not removed we will lay a complaint with Google Play to have your app removed for breach of copyright."

I thought the radios from shoutcast were free to use. Where is the limit of what you can do? Is this person right? What can I do to avoid this kind of unsettling situation?


  • edited February 2017
    I was in a similar position, posted here, got no answer, that led me to study the copyright law basics and ended up with me removing my Shoutcast radio apps from the Play Store and rely on my own content now, for peace of mind and the fact it does not seem to be fine. Shoutcast is not free or open source. They have their own license that applies to radio creators and broadcasting partners (you seem to need to sign an agreement, like the big radio apps did) and nicely remove their responsibility for copyright violations. You can find more info on their website.

    The big problem is with the radios violating copyrights and you broadcasting streams that are broadcasting violating material. It is a funny situation, really, as radio owners are defending their illegal streams legally, so you face ignorant radio owners who might actually send you legal letters (and worse, if they are legal and hold copyrights they actually can!) and potential bigger risks of broadcasting actual copyrighted material. Do you think a radio with 50 listeners have licenses for that Taylor Swift song? And EVEN IF THEY DID, why would you think it transfers onto you without having signed any agreements or paying royalties? Negative to both.
    The real situation is that you are not being caught by the big copyright holders solely because they're onto bigger fish, but if they do, you might be in trouble if someone actually wants to bring it, because they have all the laws against you to sue you for copyright violations and damages.
    Regardless, Shoutcast apps are double trouble - against the law and pissing off people who are doing things against the law yet are ignorant enough to threaten YOU, but yeah I know how easy it is to make those apps. Made it easier to take them down.
  • edited February 2017
    Also, if Google takes down an app for copyright violation, they are actually protecting you. If someone asks you nicely, they are being the good guys giving you a very fair way out.
    While most copyright holders would send you a cease & desist, they can also sue you for damages, which in case of music or pictures, can be thousands of dollars per creation that they are likely to be granted. Fair use is an affirmative defense - it means it is to be proven by you in court and is not likely to fly for an app that contains material that you know you did not obtain rights to and you publish to an app store and even worse, likely monetize.

    I don't want to scare anyone but it is important to know sooner rather than later. The fact that an app is all fine on the Play Store now does not mean that publishing copyrighted material in your app is fine, it just means it was flying below radar of those who actually could get money out of you using their material without their permission. Secondly, permission of a stream owner to include it in your app does not grant you copyrights or licenses to broadcast the actual content of the stream.

    Reading up about it made me take a step back as Andromo's activities seem to encourage usage of third party material and make it harder to implement your actual own functionality, but there is still plenty you can do using your own material. Using your own material and functionality is the only way (apart from obtaining rights/permissions to every picture/song) to have a good night's sleep and peace of mind that you're not going to receive a legal letter in you inbox.

  • To be very clear, if you don't have the rights to something, then do not do it. Andromo has always prohibited violation of intellectual property rights, illegal activities etc. Just like any tool, just because the features are there, does not mean you can ignore your responsibilities. Would you use Microsoft Word to write a copy of 'Harry Potter' and think that was OK just because you typed it out with your word processing tool? Or used Photoshop to edit a famous photo and call it yours? Fair use is indeed a tricky thing though, but in the end, if you do not have the rights to do something (i.e., you made it or you have received permission to use something), then don't do it.
  • Thank you both for your very clarifying answers; szymon247, your summary of the situation is pure gold, from now on I'm going to follow your policy of "stick to my own content for peace of mind". In fact, when this guy wrote me, I thought of thanking him for complaining to me rather than going straight to Google, as that would have damaged the state of my account and you only get one chance with Google... (but the guy seemed too pissed to tell him thank you, I guess you'll agree :) ).

    Colinadams, thank you also for your clarification, the Word analogy really says it all. Having been a previous user of YouTube, I knew the kind of trouble you can get in with their videos, but I never used Shoutcast before Andromo, so I just jumped in naively and started using their engine; I should have known better... Lesson learned, thank you both again...

  • edited February 2017
    I would just reply politely that you're immediately taking down the violating app (or better,that you already did), apologize for using it in the first place etc. etc and you meant no harm to his interests and assure him you will cease any usage of his content without permission. You can even add that you made the app just because you like his work to diffuse the situation but that depends on whether it's true and who you're dealing with.

    If you use someone's content in your app, the angry e-mails are normal, some legal threats are normal, since some people learned that starting out nice is less effective and sometimes a waste of time if he has to deal with more than one person using his stuff here or there. It is at least recommended in many "how to deal with people using my trademark/copyrighted material without permission" articles on the internet.
  • @datamixer
    I have never had any problem with Shoutcast stuff. Actually, many stations owners have reached to me to include their station in my app and/or make separate app for them alone, with them giving me full permission.

    Would you be kind enough to tell me which station was the one that caused you trouble? I might have them added somewhere and I would like to remove them.

  • @szymon247, thank you for the recommendations, they coincide exactly with the course of action I took. As a cautionary first measure, my radios in Google Play are no more...

    @Anteos, fyi, the radio that gave me the startle is called Sleep Radio. Thank you for your comments, it's good to know that one finds all kind of stances out there; maybe I will ask on a one on one basis to the radio stations if they are OK with my apps, and if so I will republish.
  • edited February 2017
    @datamixer ;;;;;, Sleep Radio was also one of the radios I was in contact with when I was playing with the concept of using Shoutcast radios, he mentioned legal action if I use their streams. I believe he also plays music he has rights to. I honored his wishes, the radio is very good too and they have their own app.

    With Shoutcast radios I either did not receive permissions, they were playing copyrighted material (and were tiny, not much potential), they had no contact information, they wanted most of the revenue in return or I received no responses, thus I gave up on the idea. I am pretty sure if to make legally, you would have to find a cooperative owner and be 100% sure he has the rights to content he streams, which takes a long time and in best case you'd make an app just for that one tiny radio stream, basically. I think you made the right choice. In the short run, it's all nice that the app seems to be doing good, but in the long run if you look on the internet for people who posted their radio apps longer than a year or two ago, you will see that their links often lead to now terminated Play accounts.
    Heck, even the "App showcase" in this forum - when I was browsing it and whenever I felt like "this one might be violating some rights" and clicked the link, it led to a disabled account or app taken down. Noticing that was a good experience too.

    It takes significantly longer to make apps using own or 100% legal content, they may generate less downloads initially, but it is very much worth it because in the long run they will be there, and will give you satisfaction and peace of mind.
  • Good links, @szymon247! Thanks.
  • @datamixer
    Thank you for the information - as far as I recall, this station is not added in my apps.
  • edited February 2017
    Thank, @hendrixs. Frankly, after reading up making an app became kind of like walking on a mine field :D Risking copyright violations on one hand and Google account on the other, it does not seem worth it for an app that produces cents per day.
    I was completely out of ideas for a long while and still take extra time to actually produce something. One of the reasons I came here, curious what kind of apps people are actually making.
  • @szymon247 Yeah, it's definitely best to produce your own content, but it may be harder for someone just starting out (if they're not writers, designers, etc. or if they don't have extra funds for content creation).

    Back in 2012, when I was a total noob, I solved the content creation part by doing apps in a partnership. The costs were down by 50% and I could still learn a lot. Eventually I bought out my share from my business partner (who wasn't that keen on apps but was willing to give a try) and proceeded on my own, once I got some experience under my belt.
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