31 July 02005

iTunes an unreliable gatekeeper for podcasts?

When the latest version of iTunes, with new functionality to hear podcasts, was launched at the end of June, an Apple spokesman was quoted saying "We've tried to include as many [podcasts] as possible" in the iTunes directory, and, "We're not trying to be the gatekeeper of podcasting". But by having and policing a directory of podcasts on one of the most popular locations for hard-disk-based MP3 players, Apple is de facto a significant gatekeeper, if not the gatekeeper.

As iTunes v4.9 was launched the day after the US Supreme Court's ruling about companies that 'promote infringement' of copyright — presumably this timing was a coincidence — you can understand why Apple would want to avoid any shadow of a doubt by ensuring that their software does not list podcasts that might infringe rights.

Nevertheless Apple's stewardship of its directory and its gatekeeper role has been erratic, to say the least. The Association of Music Podcasters has complained about many podcast feeds remaining unlisted by iTunes. My experience backs up this complaint: at the time of writing, the BBC 6 Music podcast that I mentioned last week is not included, and neither is the Cambridge Independent Podcast. Both site operate with consent of rights owners, and, if you enter them in the 'submit a podcast' field on iTunes, you get a message that they've already been submitted previously. Yet, several weeks after I first got these messages, I can't find the podcasts concerned on iTunes — though comparable podcasts like BBC 1Xtra's TX UnLtd do feature.

[Update, 24 August 02005: courtesy of this posting on Music Business Radio I found out how to subscribe to 'unlisted' podcasts via iTunes. A case of RTFM, I guess.]

Previous postings on this site about the risks of tech companies acting as gatekeepers for music can be found here and here.

Posted by David Jennings in section(s) Future of Music, Music and Multimedia, Podcasting on 31 July 02005 | TrackBack
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