Spotify's Backdoor: How Podcasts Could be the Platform's Downfallby@kaio

Spotify's Backdoor: How Podcasts Could be the Platform's Downfall

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More consumed than ever, the digital audio streaming format that was an amateur investment and development, has turned into an extremely lucrative source of income for content creators and various businesses. Sweden in first place (47%) and just behind, only Ireland and Brazil hosting more than 40% of listeners. There are no checks on podcasts posted on platforms like [Spotify], especially on [Anchor], its platform for creating and distributing podcasts at no cost. The method in which these podcasts are placed on the platform facilitates piracy.

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More consumed than ever, the digital audio streaming format that was an amateur investment and development has turned into a highly lucrative source of income for content creators and various businesses.

According to the Statista Global Consumer Survey, the number of listeners globally has risen compared to 2019. The graph Where Podcasts Are Most Popular shows which countries have the most listeners in the last 12 months. Sweden came in first place with 47%, followed by Ireland and Brazil hosting more than 40%.

Infographic: Where Podcasts Are Most Popular | Statista

Infographic: Where Podcasts Are Most Popular | Statista

With the increase of listeners, streaming music platforms have encouraged and invested in the new market of podcast creators, thus meeting the request of users and investors who demanded the immediate development of media with this market.

Meanwhile, the platforms' unpreparedness about the method of publishing and making it available to their users allows a "backdoor" to exist that enables the publication of pirated content to be displayed freely.

What Led to Piracy?

What drove users to piracy was the desire to listen to content that they liked but would never be available on the platform. In a brief analysis of the explore, it is possible to find piracy of remixed songs, movie soundtracks, audio guides, and even pornographic videos.

There are no checks on podcasts posted on platforms like Spotify and Anchor, a platform for creating and distributing podcasts at no cost.

Besides the lack of verification, making content available and publishing it by web feeds facilitates piracy. In the case of Anchor, the podcaster records the episode, and once published, it is automatically distributed on all supported platforms from an RSS feed. As a result, the violation spread to other streaming platforms that use the same publishing method.

Diagram about the podcast distribution process | Kaio Duarte (CC BY 4.0)

Diagram about the podcast distribution process | Kaio Duarte (CC BY 4.0)

Moreover, none of the platforms (Anchor and Spotify) simplified the means to make complaints about podcasts or programs that violate their content policies. To make any complaints about illegal podcasts, the user must search among the platforms' support options without any guidance from them about it. On Spotify, for example, users notice the absence of report buttons on podcasts, and this appears to be an oversight by the platform itself.

The Other Side of Piracy

Although the main reason for the backdoor reflects the availability of inappropriate content, there is an economic motive behind the whole story. In several fake podcasts, the presence of audio from paid content and a large portion of songs already available on the platform is notable.

Digital music purchases in Brazil 2021 | Statista

Digital music purchases in Brazil 2021 | Statista

This issue reflects an alarming economic factor, especially in poorer countries or those that have suffered from the pandemic. In the case of Brazil, Spotify's monthly fee readjustment in April has caused piracy on the platform itself to increase.

The premium functions available for podcasts (without restrictions or charges) attract users to pirate the platform. Downloading and listening without random mode are functions that are available without payment.

Possible Solutions

The podcasting platforms could open complaint channels for podcasts, block feeds that disrespect the content policies, or report violations to the podcast creators. In addition, a deeper analysis of the feed content (name, image, title, and description) could aid in the detection of inappropriate content.

Until these measures are taken, it will be impossible to eradicate piracy on any podcasting platform. But hopefully, taking these measures could decrease the number of copyright violations, avoiding future lawsuits.

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