Not even a year into its life, the Super Podcast Action Committee may be coming to a bitter end. Unbeknownst to its co-hosts or producer, it was violating a patent with every episode recorded and published for your listening pleasure. With the potential licensing fees and damages needed to be paid, it would kill the Super PAC over night.
That is, if Personal Audio has its way in court. Personal Audio is the holder of a patent, 8,112,504, which it claims grants it complete ownership of the podcast format. Yes, until Personal Audio created its patent no one thought of using the internet to stream or otherwise distribute episodic recordings of news, commentary, reviews or anything else people use podcasts for.
While Personal Audio has not quite set its sights on the Super PAC, it has begun its legal battle with several popular podcasts. Its current targets include Adam Carolla's "ACE Broadcasting," HowStuffWorks and Togi Entertainment.
The primary claim in contention here is Claim 31 of the patent which reads:
Apparatus for disseminating a series of episodes represented by media files via the Internet as said episodes become available
It goes on to describe an "apparatus" that basically boils down to anything connected to something else to allow transfer of the podcast. That means, your computer connected to the host server over the internet qualifies and any podcast using that "apparatus" violates this patent.
While patent trolling is nothing new, it is frustrating that the US patent system still allows for these kinds of actions. What is equally frustrating is that Personal Audio operates out of an empty office in East Texas in order to take advantage of the patent friendly courts in that region, a common patent troll tactic.
Luckily for the Super PAC and many others, the EFF is looking to help any podcasts who have been sent demand letters over this patent.