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Patent Troll with Patent on Podcasting Threatens to Shut Down—or Shake Down—Podcasters

From the Podcast Answer Man. Another example of how it is not only copyright (and trademark) that leads to censorship of speech. Patents do too. Here, they are threatening one of the most vibrant means of speech and expression: podcasting.

On This Week in Tech, Leo Laporte, who is understandably worried, suggests that podcasters get together and fight this patent, instead of being picked off one by one. This may be a good strategy, but another thing podcasters should do is reevaluate their (typical) support for IP—for patent and copyright. Unfortunately, most people, including most tech pundits and other podcasters, have a utilitarian approach to legal olicy, and accept the basic premises of patent and copyright (that some amount is “needed” to foster innovation); so they are always seeking for a “balance” and a way to “reform,” but almost never adopt the radical approach that patent and copyright cannot be fixed and are inherently bad ideas, and so should totally be abolished. Given this existential  posed to podcasting  by a ridiculous patent, perhaps some podcasters might sit up and reevaluate their stand on IP. They should join together not only to fight this patent, but the idea of patents as well.

292 The Podcast Patent Lawsuit Against Content Creators And More Thoughts On My Trip To Las Vegas



The Podcast Patent Lawsuit Against Content Creators 
I recently received an email from a very concerned podcaster, Jason Pyles, who notified me that one of the podcast networks that he was a part of was going to end all functions related to podcasts, effective January 31, 2013, as a result of hearing that podcasters are being sued by a company that claims to have a patent for podcasting.

There are many rumors flying around related to this story and Jason’s email includes two of the most prevalent rumors. It is true that there is a company, Personal Audio, LLC, that has sued three podcast networks for patentent infringement related to podcasting. It is true that Personal Audio, LLC has sued Apple, Inc over a DIFFERENT patent related to “playlists” and won an $8 Million judgement with an additional $4 Million in interest. However, Apple HAS NOT been sued over this podcasting patent. In this episode, I clearly explain that we are dealing with two different patent issues here.

Another rumor that has been going around is that the podcast networks in question have settled out of court for these charges. While I do not have any definitive proof that this is factually incorrect, I am very familiar with many people who are directly involved with this matter and I have heard nothing about any sort of settlement. And one thing is for certain, there is no documentation, anywhere, that provides evidence for such a settlement.

If you go to the Personal Audio, LLC website and click through to their patent on podcasting, it says,

The 1996 Personal Audio player incorporated a novel mechanism for automatically identifying and retrieving media files representing episodes in a series as those episodes became available. This mechanism was later widely adopted as the industry-standard technique called “podcasting.” The Personal Audio server stored a compilation file that described individual media files which represented episodes in a sequence. The compilation file was stored at a predetermined URL known to the Personal Audio player and was updated as new episodes became available. The client player could then fetch the current version of the compilation file from time to time when connected to the Internet, and download new episodes identified in the compilation file so that they could be played immediately on request, even when the client player was disconnected from the Internet.

Today, podcasts typically take the form of an industry standard RSS or Atom compilation file whose URL is stored by the client player device when the user “subscribes” to the podcast. By 2013, it is expected that more than 39 million users will listen to podcasts.

Personal Audio’s 1996 precursor to podcasting is described and claimed in Personal Audio’s U.S. Patent 8,112,504 and an additional pending divisional application, both of which are entitled “System for disseminating media content representing episodes in a serialized sequence.”

Personal Audio issued a press release on Monday, January 7, 2013 which reads:

Personal Audio Asserts Podcasting Patent
Against Media Companies

Lawsuits name The Adam Corolla Show and Stuff You Should Know podcasts

Monday January 7, 2013

Personal Audio, LLC, has filed suit today against three companies in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Texas for infringement of its U.S. 8,112,504 patent, “The Podcasting Patent.” The suits name ACE Broadcasting Network, HowStuffWorks.com and TogiEntertainment, Inc. as unauthorized users of Personal Audio’s podcasting technology. ACE Broadcasting hosts the Adam Carolla Show, CarCast, and other podcasts. The Adam Carolla Show claims the record for the most downloaded podcast. HowStuffWorks.com is the Discovery Channel’s podcasting arm, hosting a number of popular podcasts, including the Stuff You Should Know and Brain Stuff podcasts. TogiEntertainment, Inc. operates the TogiNet internet radio station, which hosts the AuthorTalk, iUniverse, and many more podcasts.

“We invented the technology that enables podcasting back in 1996 as part of an effort to develop a portable and personal audio system that would offer users a customized listening experience using content and data downloaded over the Internet,” said Charles Call, a co-inventor on the ‘504 patent and a member of Personal Audio, LLC. “Today, this patented technology is used by several media companies offering podcasting.”

In addition to The Podcasting Patent, Personal Audio is the owner of four other fundamental media patents, as well as several pending applications, that describe technology that can be used to offer a personalized media experience using audio downloaded over the Internet.

In July 2011, Personal Audio won a jury verdict against Apple, Inc., in Texas for infringing The Playlist Patent, U.S. Patent No. 6,199,076, resulting in an $8 million judgment plus $4 million in interest. Other defendants in the suit, Archos and Coby, settled before trial. Samsung, Amazon, Motorola, RIM, Sirius and others have now licensed the Personal Audio technology.

Personal Audio is represented by the Pitcock Law Group in this litigation.

About Personal Audio

Personal Audio, Inc., a predecessor to Personal Audio, LLC, was founded in 1996 with a mission of offering personalized audio to listeners using portable players downloading content and playlists from the Internet. The self-funded company worked to develop such an audio player that could download, store and manipulate audio files and related data. That system, described in patent applications filed in October, 1996, pioneered techniques now commonly used today in MP3 players, smartphones, tablets and other products that store and play audio and video files and work with downloaded playlists and podcasts.

The founder of the company was James Logan, an entrepreneur who previously had been a pioneer in the touch screen industry. He founded MicroTouch Systems, which became a public company and leader in the industry, and later Gotuit Media, a pioneer in the video metadata field.

In 2009, Personal Audio, LLC was founded by Logan and Call to market the innovations described in the patents. Robin, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi L.L.P. was subsequently engaged to assert the patents against Apple, Inc. and other defendants (Eastern District of Texas, Lufkin Division, case number 09-cv-00111). The complaint resulted in a jury trial in July 2011 and Apple was found to have infringed U.S. Patent 6,199,076. Today the Personal Audio patents are licensed by a number of major consumer electronic firms.

For more information, contact:
Richard Baker, Vice President of Licensing
Personal Audio, LLC
(409) 768-0009

In this episode I also mention this 9to5mac.com article which summarizes some of the things mentioned in the press release. I also played a portion of the most recent episode of This Week in Tech with Leo Laporte, where Leo shared his thoughts and concerns about the podcasting patent and what it might mean to podcasting.

Please listen to this full episode to get my complete thoughts on this issue as of today, Thursday, 1/17/2013. Personally, I’m not overly concerned or overreacting and I think it’s too soon to be concerned about ceasing any type of podcast production and I don’t think this should keep you from entering the world of podcasting. Please know that I am continuing to follow this story and will continue to bring you more information on future episodes of Podcast Answer Man as it’s received.

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{ 3 comments… add one }
  • Barry G January 18, 2013, 12:05 am

    Did you mean “Another example of how it is not only patent copyright…”?

To the extent possible under law, Stephan Kinsella has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to C4SIF. This work is published from: United States. In the event the CC0 license is unenforceable a  Creative Commons License Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License is hereby granted.