Help the EFF save podcasting from a patent troll

The EFF is teaming up with Harvard’s Cyberlaw Clinic to challenge a lousy patent that a troll is using as an excuse to sue and send demand letters to podcasters. The EFF needs $30,000 to file the challenge. If you enjoy podcasts (like the ones we offer) and don't want them to go away, please chip in to fund the EFF's efforts.

A couple of months ago we wrote that podcasting was under threat from a patent troll. At that time, a patent troll named Personal Audio LLC had sued three podcasters and sent demand letters to a number of others. Since then, Personal Audio has filed two new lawsuits—this time against CBS and NBC. It has also sent additional demand letters to small podcasting operations. We’ve written often in the past about how patent trolls are a drain on innovation, and this latest troll is no exception. Since many podcasters barely make a profit, or simply do it for love, a shakedown from a patent troll threatens to shut down their program.

As with so many patent troll cases, the troll is asking for money despite having contributed nothing to the industry. By its own admission, Personal Audio tried and failed at its attempt to make an audio player. Having failed at actually making something, it became a shell company that does nothing but sue on its patents. And now it wants a handout from those who worked hard to create popular podcasts.

Save Podcasting


  1. This is when I admire the Mob’s old-school efficiency of breaking kneecaps for only 3 grand or less.

  2. Call me a luddite, but can anyone please explain the difference between a “podcast” and an “audio recording”?  And can anyone explain to me how one could patent “audio recording” at this late date?  No prior art?  Really?

    The USPTO needs a serious kick in the ass.

    1. The only difference I can think of off the top of my head is that you can subscribe to a podcast and get notification of the new recordings when they appear.

      1. I see, so its audio recordings with notifications.  Like my band’s mailing list?  A patent for combining two unrelated things that have existed for a hundred years, and which doesn’t change the nature of either in any significant way?  Patent granted! ;)

    2. Apparently, you haven’t received your pod yet. Do you live in an isolated rural area?

      1. Yep.  NYC :).  But seriously, what’s so different about a  podcast?  It’s a friggin’ audio recording.  I listened to Marc Maron once on itunes and it was like, a crappy audio recording or something.  It was funny tho.

  3. With all the patent/copyright trolling going on as well as the complete intolerance of IP owners to fair use, what if the world just decided to not comply to these ridiculous claims that contribute less than nothing to the world of ideas.

  4. What’s a bit scary is that the EFF is apparently still looking for prior
    art….meaning they haven’t actually found it. If they can’t, game over
    for podcasting. The troll will legally be right. And however awful and
    morally wrong that might be, it will mean pay up or stop. So get ready for a world of ONLY big-content podcasts…for a small fee, of course.

    1. This really makes no sense.  How can EFF not be able to rattle of a long list of prior art?  Serialized audio productions pushed to the listeners’ devices have existed since, at least, the dawn of radio…

      1. “Apparatus for disseminating a series of episodes represented by media files via the Internet as said episodes become available”
        I’m really hoping someone else did something with this earlier, but it’s awfully specific.

    2. It’s prior art from before 1996, which may as well be the Cenozoic era in technology terms. On the plus side I guess the patent will expire inside a decade, right?

      Also, it only applies to the US. The rest of the world is happy to host your down-trodden pod-casters. Not Joe Rogan. You keep him… I kid. 

    3. How are they not finding prior art? Maybe I don’t understand what constitutes prior art. I was listening to podcasts back in 2003, and that patent looks like it was filed in 2009. Hell, I *wrote* a podcasting client myself around 2004. It polled RSS feeds & auto-assembled CDROMs of MP3s for my car in the short period before I had an actual iPod.

      Edit: Oh, I see – they need prior art dated before 1996. That’s tough. We barely had most of the machinery for podcasts proper back then (ie. RSS feeds with MP3 enclosures auto-downloaded via the web) :/

  5. Maybe I’m missing something here, but if these trolls are suing CBS and NBC, wouldn’t these huge players be highly motivated and well-funded enough to fight this?  Why come to the public for money when CBS and NBC can throw millions at this?

    1. I would imagine CBS and NBC swim in the same murky waters as the typical patent troll. It would probably make more sense for them to pay for a license rather than contest the legality of the Intellectual Property system. 

  6. I can’t find the point that they might sue over.
    All I see is “audio player with a memory” and can play stuff in sequence. (Which would allow them to maybe sue every iPod, iPod clone and smartphone and a few smartphone apps, but apparently that patent is too weak for that?)

    But, how does this allow them to sue the audio episodes creators?
    Anyone know which patent and claim they are suing over?

  7. Seriously, what *would* happen if someone just plain refused to cooperate? It’s bogus from top to bottom and any common-sense-type person can see that plainly. So what would happen if some brave citizen just stood up and said ‘no’ ?

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