Electronic Frontier Foundation solicits help to battle podcasting lawsuit

By Andrew Lapin

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has taken a new tack in its fight against a pending patent lawsuit concerning podcasts. Its target is Texas-based technology company Personal Audio, which claims to own the patent on podcast distribution technology.

EFF posted a May 30 open call for examples of technology that distributed serialized episodes of media over the Internet prior to Oct. 2, 1996, the date of Personal Audio’s patent filing asserting ownership of podcasting technology.  In legal terms, such examples are referred to as “prior art” and would weaken Personal Audio’s claims on the patent. EFF has also partnered with Harvard University’s Cyberlaw Clinic over the case and is soliciting donations on its website to assist with legal fees and “help save podcasting.”

On Jan. 7, Personal Audio filed patent-infringement lawsuits against three prominent podcasting production companies. Weeks later the company, which doesn’t produce any technology or content on its own, distributed letters to other podcasters inviting them to join in a licensing agreement, including some whose programs are distributed through public radio. Jesse Thorn of Bullseye, whose show is now distributed by NPR, and WTF host Marc Maron, whose podcasts have been edited for broadcast and distributed through Public Radio Exchange, are among those who have been contacted by Personal Audio.

Richard Baker, v.p. of licensing, told Current at the time that Personal Audio hadn’t intended to contact public broadcasters. Personal Audio “is not interested in public media at this point,” he said.

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