Ira Glass responds to charges that he’s trying to censor risqué podcast

By Andrew Lapin

As one of the most popular podcasts of all time, Public Radio International’s This American Life has had to deal with its fair share of imitators and parodies over the years, and many other podcasts have appropriated the “This American…” moniker to draw attention to their own audio. On Feb. 5, SF Weekly spotlighted one such effort that was reportedly getting heat from Glass and his attorneys over trademark violation: This American Whore, a podcast covering sex workers’ issues, created in November 2012 by Siouxsie Q, a San Francisco sex worker.

Siouxsie Q first tweeted on Feb. 1 that she had been instructed by TAL‘s lawyers to change her podcast’s name within five days. SF Weekly reported that she began receiving emails from the program in January.  SF Weekly alleged that by focusing on This American Whore while leaving alone other podcasts like This American Wife and This American Horror Story, the program’s attorneys were unfairly targeting the program because of its content. The story’s author, Chris Hall, went one step further on Twitter, saying the show was “trying to silence sex workers with copyright law.”

But in an email to the magazine posted Feb. 6, Glass disputed that notion (via TAL director of operations Seth Lind). The program is required to fight to protect its name in any medium or it risks losing its intellectual property rights, regardless of content, Glass wrote.

“If you don’t take action when you hear about people knocking off your name, and get them to stop, you can lose your trademark rights,” Glass wrote, pointing to American Startup as an example — the program used to be called This American Startup until TAL asked its producers to change their name in 2012. Glass also spared kind words for This American Whore, calling the show “charming” and adding,  “If I lose this job and become a sex worker, I hope you’ll have me on as a guest. Just change your name.”

As of Feb. 8, Siouxsie Q has yet to change the name of her podcast or acknowledge Glass’s letter on her Twitter account.

  • Nolan Ryan

    You should tell them to “bring it on” if they’re going to sue. No way in hell will they sue. Besides, it’s ridiculous. Do they own “This American _______” ? No. Absurd. I’m not an expert in this area but it’s ludicrous. Don’t back down.

    • Nolan Ryan

      And shame on you Ira. Just because you bullied “This American Startup” doesn’t mean you have the right to bully anyone with the name “This American” in it.

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