When my colleague Anthony showed this on the staff page, I very much surprised at what I was reading. I mean, the usual targets patent trolls claim as theirs is tech stuff, so something like podcasts is not even in my purview. But lo and behold Patent trolls have sunk to a new low. According to Julie Samuels of lobby group Electronic Frontier Foundation, a company called Personal Audio are going after podcasters for supposedly “claiming that it owns a patent that covers podcasting technology.” She explains that Personal Audio is using very broad terminology to catch many in its huge web of deception. One example she presents is how they define distribution of episodes.
Apparatus for disseminating a series of episodes represented by media files via the Internet as said episodes become available…
Um… what? What apparatus? What kind of media files? Which websites!? If that’s the case you might as well go after every damn person on the internet, which is virtually impossible. Recently patent troll Lodsys went after app developers, and got so bad to the point that Apple and Google had to step in. This kind of shit is dangerous for many podcasters, and they’ve already gone after HowStuffWorks and Adam Corolla. The smaller guys are especially at risk since most can’t afford to defend themselves. We tape our own podcasts between semesters, and all we ever use is USB stick mics, an audio editor, and Sony Vegas, and we upload to blip.tv (which by the way, our timing should be improving very soon).
You might be wondering, “why the hell do these trolls do this?” Patent Trolls exist by buying up old patents that have either expired, been orphaned, simply useless, and reword a few things in their favor. Either that or they make a new patent on something so stupid simple or common that you’d think the Patent Office would laugh them out of the building. They then abuse the legal system by suing people or companies for absurdly miniscule things for large sums of money, usually in the millions of dollars. Since most of these cases are not worth fighting in court (legal fees and all), both parties settle out of court for a small sum of cash. This is where the patent trolls make they’re income: Out of court settlements. This creates fear within the field of tech (and now podcasting apparently) as it stifles creativity and innovation for fear of litigation.
And the worst thing about it: It’s all legal.
The EFF is seeking out those who podcast and have been contacted by Personal Audio to create a case to invalidate these lawsuits. Hopefully this’ll also lead to some sort of reform that closes this loophole that these Patent Trolls abuse. We might be drawing unneeded attention to our own podcast and become a target (we are small after all), but more people need to know about this.
Podcasting Community Faces Patent Troll Threat; EFF Wants to Help [Electronic Frontier Foundation]