February 5, 2013 | By Julie Samuels

Podcasting Community Faces Patent Troll Threat; EFF Wants to Help

Another day, another patent troll. Or so it seems. The threat of the patent troll is not new—we’ve written about it time and again. But the troubling trend of suing downstream users and content providers really makes us mad. First it was the app developers, then those who scan documents to email. Now, the latest outrage: podcasters. Yes, really. And EFF wants to help organize those facing the threat so that we can gauge the size of the problem and hopefully help people find counsel and a way to work together in response. 

First, some background. A company called Personal Audio is claiming that it owns a patent that covers podcasting technology and has sent podcasters letters, demanding that they pay Personal Audio to use the technology. As with many patents, this one is dangerously broad and vague, allegedly covering, well, any and all podcasting. Just take a look at this language:

Apparatus for disseminating a series of episodes represented by media files via the Internet as said episodes become available…

Of course, as with most software patents, this one fails to explain how that “apparatus” would actually work, apparently letting its owner make the ridiculous claim that essentially any apparatus that disseminates episodes infringes its patent.

So far, Personal Audio has sued some pretty high-profile and beloved podcasts, like the Adam Carolla Show and HowStuffWorks. It also sent its threatening letters demanding a license to numerous podcasters, like Majority Report’s Sam Seder (we got a chance to talk to him a little about the problem on his show here).

Are you a podcaster? Have you received a letter from Personal Audio? We think there are more of you out there than you realize. EFF would like to understand how big the problem is and make sure you’re all in touch with each other. We can also help you find counsel. If you’ve heard from Personal Audio, please send us an email at podcasting@eff.org.

 


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