Are You Committing a Federal Crime using Skype on Your Podcast?

I listened to a recent episode of Current’s “The Pub” podcast where host Adam Ragusea went on a rant about Skype. Not about issues with lag, or dropped calls, or that you can forget about ever using Skype to speak with someone in the Washington, DC area (worst. internet. ever.)

No, Adam’s gripe has to do with Skype’s Broadcast Terms of Service.

Did you know that when you record a conversation over Skype to be used for audio broadcast, including podcasts, you have to give Skype credit for the recording with a verbal announcement? Here’s how it works:

  • You have to say something like, “We are chatting with [Nina] on a Skype call” at the beginning of the clip AND at the end of the clip.
  • Do this for recordings of 15 minutes or less. It doesn’t matter if the clip is 15 minutes or two seconds … you have to include this verbal announcement … twice.
  • For clips over 15 minutes, you have to include the announcement at the beginning and end — same as the shorter clips — plus, you have to break into the clip AT LEAST every 15 minutes to give another announcement. A 45 minute interview will have no less than four verbal announcements letting the audience know you’re using Skype. Fun right?

Specifically, from Section 2 of their Broadcast ToS:

2.1 Audio Programs. With respect to any Program where there is no visual image being Broadcast, the following requirements apply:

(a) For any Program where use of the Skype Software will be fifteen (15) minutes or less in duration, You shall transmit an identification announcement at the beginning and end of such use, as described in the Skype Broadcast Guidelines;

(b) For any Program where the use of the Skype Software will be for more than fifteen (15) minutes in duration, You shall transmit an identification announcement at the beginning and end of such use and over the course of the Program in no less than fifteen (15) minute intervals, as described in the Skype Broadcast Guidelines; and

(c) If You wish to include in any Program a sound to represent a particular Skype-calling feature or action (for example, but without limitation, a “call answer” sound for when a call is accepted or a “hang-up” sound for when a call is terminated) You shall use only the Skype specific sounds provided by Skype and You shall further comply with the requirements relating to the use of Skype sounds set out in the Skype Broadcast Guidelines. To request a Skype sound, contact:

Breaking the Law GIF

The Long Arm of the Law

Adam actually dug up a particularly interesting piece of law that deals with Terms of Service agreements. Technically, if you violate a software’s or service’s ToS, you’re breaking the US Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) and could be charged with a felony.

You’re kidding, right?

18 U.S. Code § 1030 – Fraud and related activity in connection with computers
(a)Whoever—(2)intentionally accesses a computer without authorization or exceeds authorized access, and thereby obtains—(C)information from any protected computer;

Let me break it down for you. Part of this law essentially prevents people from accessing computers, collecting data, and using it in ways it’s not intended to be used. When you use Skype, you access their servers (any protected computer), you record the conversation (collect data), and use it in a way it is not intended to be used by broadcasting the audio without giving Skype credit (exceeds authorized access).

So what’s the penalty?

18 U.S. Code § 1030 – a fine under this title or imprisonment for not more than five years, or both, in the case of an offense under subsection

The good news is chances of anyone being prosecuted for this are slim unless they’re trying to catch you for different crimes. Think Al Capone being indicted for tax evasion.

You’re NOT going to jail

Lori Drew, Associated Press photo

Lori Drew, Associated Press photo

The United States vs. Drew was an unfortunate case of cyberbullying that led to the victim committing suicide in 2006. The defendant created a fake Myspace profile to harass the victim and was subsequently charged with four counts of violating the CFAA.

The jury was deadlocked on the first count, found Drew not guilty of counts two through four, but guilty of misdemeanor violation of the CFAA.

Here’s the kicker … a judge later dropped the case against Drew saying that allowing a ToS violation to be considered intentionally accessing a computer without authorization or exceeding authorized access would “result in transforming (the CFAA) into an overwhelmingly overbroad enactment that would convert a multitude of otherwise innocent Internet users into misdemeanant criminals.” (Wired)

So, yeah … you’re not going to jail for breaking Skype’s ToS. That’d doesn’t mean that Skype can’t cancel your account or sue you.


Tape sync, also known as a double ender. This is the ideal method for recording high quality audio. If your guest can’t come to your studio, you can hire someone to go to their location and record while they talk to you on the phone. Standard rates are $100-$125 for a tape sync plus travel.

If you can’t swallow that type of expense for every interview and you still need to record over the Internet …

  • You can go on ignoring Skype’s terms and use your recordings without accommodating their verbal identification rules. I mean, come on, Microsoft (Skype’s parent company) isn’t known for being the most ethical company. Right?
  • Personally, I’ll take the moral high ground on this one and follow their rules. I don’t pay anything for the service, so why not give them their due? Or …
  • You can just use another platform, which is exactly what I do. My current platform of choice is Zencastr.
    • Nothing to install
    • No accounts for my guest to create
    • Records locally, so there’s no internet compression or lag
    • Syncs the files for me
    • It’s in beta as of this writing, so it’s free!
    • Did I mention, no silly ToS? Yet.


You can hear Adam Ragusea’s full rant starting around the 00:03:15 mark on episode 58 of The Pub.

  • Mark

    Try too; it’s designed for broadcast and podcasts, and sounds better than Skype if you have a decent mic.

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