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Patent Issued For Podcasting 150

Posted by kdawson
from the next-a-patent-on-the-eardrum dept.
pickens writes "The EFF is reaching out for help after a company called Volomedia got the Patent Office to grant them exclusive rights to 'a method for providing episodic media' that could threaten the community of podcasters and millions of podcast listeners. 'It's a ridiculously broad patent, covering something that many folks have been doing for many years,' writes Rebecca Jeschke. 'Worse, it could create a whole new layer of ongoing costs for podcasters and their listeners.' To bust this patent, EFF is looking for additional 'prior art' — evidence that the podcasting methods described in the patent were already in use (PDF) before November 19, 2003. 'In particular, we're looking for written descriptions of methods that allow a user to download pre-programmed episodic media like audio files or video files from a remote publisher, with the download occurring after the user subscribes to the episodes, and with the user continuing to automatically receive new episodes.'"
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Patent Issued For Podcasting

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  • Didn't Leo of TechTV do something like this using RealAudio back in the day?

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      Are you sure you want this patent handed over to RealAudio?

      • by paulsnx2 (453081)

        Prior Art doesn't give someone a patent or the right to patent. If RealAudio was doing this and publicly documented their process, nobody can patent their process, not even them.

        • I don't think RealAudio liked what he was saying to do. This was before Podcasts. He basically told some of his listeners that they could "copy" his streaming audio with a software tool so they could listen later on an MP3 player. This might have been around 2001, but my memory is crap.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by dotHectate (975458)
        According to wikipedia Valve's Steam content delivery system was initially released on Sept 12, 2003. I didn't get it at first so I don't know what functions were available at the time - I seem to remember it being mainly used for updates - but it is definitely used to deliver "episodic" content now, particularly audio and video (interactive and otherwise). I can't imagine that Valve was the first to be doing this either.
      • Maybe they deserve it. When did Real start listing channels in their player? I don't recall but I'm sure that about the time I got fed up with it and refused to ever use it again.
    • Re:Not sure (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 20, 2009 @02:19PM (#30174264)

      Hello. I have noticed you have made a mention of RealAudio in some way, shape, or form. As a member of teh intarnets, I am required to make at least one "Buffering" joke at the expense of RealMedia, no matter how much this situation has changed in the past ten to fifteen years.

      To provide you with some backstory as to this joke, I will mention that I was, in fact, a child of the 80s and 90s. Like most such people, my mind is permanently stuck in that time period, because, as I am certain you are aware, everything was much much better back then. For instance, video games were harder, and thus better, in the 8-bit and 16-bit eras, and it is my firm belief that the sole purpose of homebrew with modern consoles is to provide us with another vector of emulators so we can play Chrono Trigger for the eight thousandth time (as we all know, the eight thousandth time is the best), and that there is absolutely no reason why anyone should ever stop playing the Mega Man series non-stop. Also, cartoons were far better in the 90s, especially Transformers (heralded by our Lord and Savior, Optimus Prime, hallowed be his name), and said cartoons were in no possible way cynically-designed marketing ploys to sell cheap plastic toys, which were also awesome and I have them all and refuse to give them up.

      As you can see, I enjoy my pathetic attempts to live in the past, as, following my cultural entrenchment there, that is all I have*. Therefore, I refuse to acknowledge any sort of external factors in RealMedia's historic buffering issues. Issues such as, but not limited to, the lack of proliferation of broadband internet access like we have today. Ergo, despite there not being any more problems with RealMedia than with other streaming media formats (in fact, some may say it is now far more reliable than many), it is so buried in my psyche and so desperately held on to as a reminder of a time long past when I was actually cool and popular that I must continue to make said jokes until such time as I die a bitter, broken man, missing out on life itself.

      So, without further ado, I will state for the record that Leo may have done this back in the day, but after buffering, we only found out about it now.

      Thank you, and good day to you.

      *: As an amusingly ironic side note, I will delight in telling people older than I am to "get with the times" in any of a wide variety of ways.

    • by Lumpy (12016)

      Screw that, the guys from 2800 have been doing this for far longer than leo has even had the idea that computers were neat.

  • by Brazilian Geek (25299) on Friday November 20, 2009 @01:23PM (#30173322) Journal
    But weren't there a few guys, back in 1999 that used to have a pretty neat weekly show. Back then I don't think they were called podcasts but I do remember that the shows were really fun.

    Anyway, I found a link to it on Wikipedia but I'm sure there are more links around.

    It was called Geeks in Space [wikipedia.org], or something like that, and the site's admins that used to make the show was called flashdot, dashdot, slashdort or something like that.
      • by neoform (551705)
        Look at all those user accounts with ID's below 100,000... :o
        • by sconeu (64226)

          What? You got a problem with us geezers? Get off of my lawn, y'darned kid!

          • by Otto (17870)

            Yeah, I never will understand these youngsters...

          • by Lumpy (12016)

            Geezer?

            You look like a newborn baby to me kid.
            Now where did you damn kids hide my wheelchair?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Garridan (597129)

      Similarly, Red vs. Blue has been around since early 2003. They didn't call 'em podcasts, but same deal.

      • I don't think they fit this part:

        and with the user continuing to automatically receive new episodes.

        In order to get a patent repealed, I believe the prior art needs to cover the entire thing. I don't recall automatically receiving episodes back when I was a subscriber (I think it was actually called "sponsor", but whatever). I had to go to the website every release day and check if a new episode was available.

        I could be misunderstanding, though, and by automatically they just mean the content is available automatically to subscribers, not that you would automatically recei

        • I could be misunderstanding, though, and by automatically they just mean the content is available automatically to subscribers, not that you would automatically receive it.

          Nope, you were right the first time: automatically downloading updated episodic media associated with the channel dedicated to the episodic media to a computing device associated with the user in accordance with the subscription request upon availability of the updated episodic media, the automatic download occurring without further user interaction...

          • by blueskies (525815)

            Subscription request? This isn't push. That's a cron job running locally pulling down weekly archives. That's gentoo doing "emerge --sync" daily in a cron job without further user interaction.

            1. There is no subscription. Client side software periodically retrieves new content. It's not like a mailing list subscription that pushes out digests and content and bounces mail if your server isn't up. This is polling.

            2. Episodic media is a worthless term. CD tracks are episodic.

            3. Upon availability? Still

        • by Hucko (998827)

          or email it to you. I was definitely 'automatically' receiving media content in 92, well, pulling content via retrieving emails.

    • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

      by mcgrew (92797) *

      I did one back in 1999 when I had the Springfield Fragfest, a Quake site. I think I still have the MP3s of my daughter doing Quake Christmas carols I wrote for the Christmas show that year, "I saw Mommie Fragging Santa Claus" and "Rudolph the Four Legged Stroggie".

      I did shoutcasts about every other week, with rock and roll music blatantly infringing RIAA copyrights that was put in the context so that the meanings were changed, making them about Quake. I also infringed copyright with mashups of various stuff

  • "Method" patents (Score:5, Insightful)

    by l2718 (514756) on Friday November 20, 2009 @01:27PM (#30173402)
    The patent should be invalidated because business methods should not be patentable. There's plenty of prior art for the individual pieces (making files available for download to subscribers is as old as the BBS, and email notifications when new files are available are not newer), but the patentee will claim "we are the first to put all these ideas together". Of course what they did would have been obvious to anyone trying to solve the problem, but even that's not the point. The real issue is with what they are trying to patent. Would the PTO (or the CFFC) accept a patent on the same business method, except that users send requests on postcards, the audio will be burned to CDs and mailed by post, and the subscription lists will be maintained in paper folders? If not, then the PTO should explain why sending files by post is not patentable, but sending them by internet is.
    • by Sethumme (1313479)
      That is precisely how I feel. Why is a series of everyday, physical activities seen as so intuitively not special, but when those same activities are translated into an electronic representation, the process becomes unique? Sure, I can accept copyrighting the particular code used to implement said functionality, but a patent on the process itself makes an arbitrary division between one's actions in the real world and one's actions in the digital world. There are so many examples of business method patent
    • by Zordak (123132)

      Would the PTO (or the CFFC) accept a patent on the same business method, except that users send requests on postcards, the audio will be burned to CDs and mailed by post, and the subscription lists will be maintained in paper folders?

      If it was novel and nonobvious then yes, they would. You seem to be confusing subject matter with obviousness. You say that business methods should not be patentable, but then complain about the obviousness of a patent on a software method. Business method patents != software patents. Business method patents are looking like they are going to hammered by the Supreme Court, but I don't expect them to kill software patents. And patentable subject matter != obviousness. The question of patentable subject

    • by blueskies (525815)

      Anyone that uses a cron job (the subscription) to automatically pull down newer updates (episodes) of some media without further user interaction has prior art on this.

      cron.daily: emerge --sync, downloading security updates

      RSS feeds, IMAP "subscriptions", etc

      Eudora clients and IMAP mail servers have been "podcasting" emails for a LONG time.

  • Red vs Blue (Score:2, Interesting)

    I wonder if it counts since it is:

    Episodic content............. Check
    Web Posted................... Check
    Already Up in 1993.......... Check

    Just my 1 cent of useless info...
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Shrike82 (1471633)

      Already Up in 1993.......... Check

      Red vs. Blue, the Machinima based on Halo, was up in 1993? Really? Quite a feat since Halo wasn't released for another 10 years or so. Or are you referring to some earlier Red vs. Blue that was overshadowed?

      • Or are you referring to some earlier Red vs. Blue that was overshadowed?

        US elections, perhaps?
  • This sounds more like a patent on RSS feeds- online episodic media goes way back (Big media had webisodes in 2000, with amateur stuff going back much further) but the patent seems to refer to subscriptions and automatic downloading.

    • It doesn't even sound like the feeds themselves would be under threat. What this appears to apply to would be RSS readers and podcatchers that do the automatic downloading.

  • Wikipedia (Score:5, Informative)

    by Minupla (62455) <minupla.gmail@com> on Friday November 20, 2009 @01:30PM (#30173440) Homepage Journal

    Wikipedia has a whole section of prior art in their history section of the podcasting article here [wikipedia.org]

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jank1887 (815982)

      specifically:

      Timeline

      * September 2000 - The first system that enabled the selection, automatic downloading and storage of serial episodic audio content on PCs and portable devices was launched by September 2000 [2] from another early MP3 player manufacturer, i2Go. To supply content for its portable mp3 players, i2Go, makers of the eGo player, introduced a digital audio news and entertainment service called MyAudio2Go.com that enabled users to download episodic news, sports, ente

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by wastedlife (1319259)

      From the article:

      September 2000 - The first system that enabled the selection, automatic downloading and storage of serial episodic audio content on PCs and portable devices was launched by September 2000 [2] from another early MP3 player manufacturer, i2Go. To supply content for its portable mp3 players, i2Go, makers of the eGo player, introduced a digital audio news and entertainment service called MyAudio2Go.com that enabled users to download episodic news, sports, entertainment, weather, and music in audio format for listening on a PC, the eGo portable audio player, or other MP3 players. The i2GoMediaManager and the eGo file transfer application could be programmed to automatically download the latest episodic content available from user selected content types to a PC or portable device as desired. The service lasted over a year, but succumbed when the i2Go company ran out of capital during the dotcom crash and folded.

      That seems pretty relevant to this case.

    • by Dan541 (1032000)

      The evidence of prior art is everywhere, but that doesn't stop the patent office handing them out. Has the patent office ever rejected anything?

  • Mortality.net Radio was posting episodes back in February 2002. The kicker is how it applies to the patent. It satisfies Claim 1A, but none of the others like subscription, auto-downloading, or showing if there is space remaining for the download (except how that is already covered in operating systems and/or web browsers).

    • Wouldn't that mean that because podcasts do not check for space for the download, that they would not be affected? On the other hand, the myriad of podcatcher applications out there might be under threat.

  • by flaming error (1041742) on Friday November 20, 2009 @01:40PM (#30173584) Journal

    methods that allow a user to download pre-programmed episodic media like audio files or video files from a remote publisher, with the download occurring after the user subscribes to the episodes, and with the user continuing to automatically receive new episodes

    Well, starting in 1977 users who wanted to watch a pre-programmed episodic audio/video stream called "Inside the NFL" could subscribe to the cable TV HBO/Showtime channel, and after subscribing would continue to automatically receive new episodes. Does that count?

  • Heinlein's View (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 20, 2009 @01:44PM (#30173642)

    From The Door Into Summer by Robert A. Heinlein (1956):
          There wasn't anything really new in it; it was just the way that I put it together. The "spark of genius" required by our laws lay in getting a good patent lawyer.

  • by sir_eccles (1235902) on Friday November 20, 2009 @01:46PM (#30173666)

    1. A method for providing episodic media, the method comprising:
    - providing a user with access to a channel dedicated to episodic media, wherein the episodic media provided over the channel is pre-defined into one or more episodes by a remote publisher of the episodic media;
    - receiving a subscription request to the channel dedicated to the episodic media from the user;
    - automatically downloading updated episodic media associated with the channel dedicated to the episodic media to a computing device associated with the user in accordance with the subscription request upon availability of the updated episodic media, the automatic download occurring without further user interaction; and
    - providing the user with: an indication of a maximum available channel depth, the channel depth indicating a size of episodic media yet to be downloaded from the channel and size of episodic media already downloaded from the channel, the channel depth being specified in playtime or storage resources, and the ability to modify the channel depth by deleting selected episodic media content, thereby overriding the previously configured channel depth.

    • by anegg (1390659)
      Oh, you mean like subscribing to a cable channel like ESPN, then "time-shifting" a favorite program/game using a VCR (remember those)? That meets most of the conditions (channel depth was how much unrecorded tape was left on the cassette).
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by xigxag (167441)

      It seems to me that this is describing a subset of push technology [wikipedia.org], such as PointCast back in the day, and even those "channels [wikipedia.org]" you used to be able to subscribe to in Windows 95. PointCast predates this patent app by a number of years.

      • by blueskies (525815)

        It's not push though. No one gets pushed podcasts do they? It looks like it, but really the clients poll.

    • by radtea (464814)

      1. A method for providing episodic media, the method comprising:

      Thank-you for fulfilling and important step in the rigidly scripted /. patent-story method patent:

      1) Editors post patent-related story with false headline and misleading summary

      2) Commentors who know nothing about patent law and who have not read the claims respond with outrage

      3) Someone posts the actual claims, thereby demonstrating the headline is false and the summary misleading.

      4) Outrage continues unabated, although sometimes its target sh

    • by mdsolar (1045926)
      I'm pretty sure a number of newspapers have been offering daily emails of headlines for a long time. News groups have offered digests episodically. Any which have indicate the length of the digest have pretty much nail this.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by blueskies (525815)

      IMAP.

      1. Email INBOX is a channel where-in publishers of emails can provide episodic media
      2. IMAP clients "subscribe" to a channel (server + folder)
      3. IMAP clients automatically download updated episodic media from the channel without further interaction by the user
      4. IMAP can be configured to give stats about "channel metadata" and get rid of old media (auto archive of emails over X days old, ect)

  • by Mikkeles (698461)

    You mean like cable television?

  • Hate to admit to it, but Art Bell use to do this with his radio show back in the 90s. I remember getting RA streams running on my Amiga 1200. It was so awesome.
  • Anyone else tired of this patent crap?

  • http://www.mp3newswire.net/stories/2000/ego.html [mp3newswire.net]

    * Test Drive of The i2Go eGo with IBM MicroDrive.
    by Richard Menta 9/01/00

    *snip*

    More Options

    *snip*

    Want more options? I2Go MP3Agent, the software that comes with the player, has text-to-speech capabilities designed to translate the morning email into MP3 files to listen to on the commute in. This culd be a lifesaver to busy dot-com employees who get backlogged with a hundred messages.

    MyAudio2Go.com

    One of the best options available from the folks at i2Go is a web

  • by Tsar (536185)
    FidoNet [wikipedia.org] has been in operation since 1984 and has always supported attachment of arbitrary files. I'd suppose that the first issue of the FidoNews newsletter [fidonews.info], dated 1 December of that year, probably constituted the first episodic media transmitted to subscribers on that system. I don't know which issue was first to include a WAV or GIF file, but the capability was there from the beginning.
  • I'd think you could go back much earlier. Syndicated radio, back in the 1930's, was done by individual radio stations subscribing to a show; e.g. a "podcast". "Downloads" were done by the syndicator making copies of records and mailing them to the subscribers. I see zero difference between that and current podcasts where the "syndicator" puts audio/video files on a computer network so that subscribers can download them.
  • Why is this not prior art? It is episotic media. It is pushed to a user once they subscribe using the mail service and is wapped in a publication ( the channel).
  • Does this patent cover newsgroups? I think that would be prior art.

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SHOUTcast [wikipedia.org] Originally released in 1999. It could serve audio files in a streaming sense. Also, some plugins for WinAmp would allow you to download each individual files since all shoutcast involved was streaming mp3s across HTTP one after another. Later, video began to show up.
    • by sabernet (751826)

      I distinctly remembered several TV-via-shoutcast stations as well as some radio ones. I listened to the HHG2TG radio play via one of those. If that isn't episodic, I don't know what is.

      So:

      -Released before 2003
      -Allowed episodic media to be downloaded automatically and in order
      -Subscriptions often involved whitelisting your IP with the main server for infinite streaming at a small cost.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ajs (35943)

      Streaming is irrelevant. The patent is about downloading and managing subscriptions to audio files. It covers fetching new files when they're updated and making room on local storage by deleting older files.

      Come to think of it, the best prior art for this is Usenet. Audio newsgroups contained audio files that were subscribed to by the user and news server software would make room for new files by deleting the old.

      Yep, I think that'd about do it.

      Also, the RSS standards history [userland.com] can probably point to some earl

      • by sabernet (751826)

        If you read my comment again, I mention the fact that WinAmp is actively downloading the file as you're listening to it. Some plugins let you keep the file afterwards.

        Not saying the Usenet idea isn't also applicable, however.

      • by DavidTC (10147)

        I made my post [slashdot.org] before I saw yours. Yeah, Usenet is pretty much prior art.

        Read my post which tries to directly address each claim. Namely, you need an 'episodic content' aspect, which, luckily, illegal television newsgroups provide.

      • by blueskies (525815)

        Don't get caught up on audio. It doesn't cover just audio files. They used the blanket term media (which is a little weird), but they mean any medium: audio, video, or other files. So usenet, list servers, pop, imap, etc all fit that bill.

  • There's prior art for podcast-like distribution of audio shows dating back to 1993. [wikipedia.org] However, the patent has to be read, and each claim compared to previous efforts. Simply demonstrating that people used the Internet for audio show distribution prior to 2003 does nothing.

  • by Interoperable (1651953) on Friday November 20, 2009 @02:53PM (#30174904)

    I would like someone who is informed about the patent process to clarify for me, and by extension the /. community, an aspect of the patent process that I do not understand and seems to be a point of confusion among readers here:

    If a patent is (wrongly) awarded for a technology that has been covered by prior art, even if the prior art has not previously been patented, what is the legal status of the patent and the prior art? Can the patent be a threat to prior art (could previously existing podcasting/RSS technology be threatened by legal challenges)? Would a challenge by the patent holder risk invalidating the patent when the defendant produced evidence of prior art? In the event of a legal battle where the patent was found to be invalid due to prior art, who would be responsible for legal costs?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      I am not a laywer (INAL)

      A patent has to be novel and new at the time it is submitted.

      The inventor "needs" to ensure that the invention is not in use currently or in the past

      Then it is written up and sent to the patent office. They can at that point start marking items using the invention Pat Pending (might not be required any more)

      The patent office looks for prior art as well but only gets money if they approve it. So they are motiveated to do so.

      Once approved the patent holder can sue anyone using the inv

      • the USPTO doesn't just get paid if the patent is approved, they are paid for nearly every document that is filed with the office. For example:
        an extension of time after a rejection, office gets paid
        Applicant files an information disclosure statement, office gets paid
        notice of appeal, office gets paid
        request for continuation, office gets paid

        and so on and so forth

    • by rwv (1636355)

      If a patent is (wrongly) awarded for a technology that has been covered by prior art, even if the prior art has not previously been patented, what is the legal status of the patent and the prior art?

      You can patent something that somebody has implemented, but not published. When the patent is granted, you can sue the originating implementer and compel them to (a) stop doing business based on the claims in your patent, or (b) license your patent.

      If the original implementer PUBLISHED the inventor before you filed for your patent, then that demonstrates prior art and it would cause a real legal battle if you manner to get a patent for it.

      IANAL, but I did attend an information session presented by my c

  • perhaps this counts. if the fixed periodic nature is a problem, just be a little lazy when putting things on the servers. ;-)

  • Art Bell was podcasting in 1998. Even by then there were several years of archives so the starting date was probably closer to 1995. http://archive.coasttocoastam.com/gen/podcast.html [coasttocoastam.com]
  • How about usenet?

    It even uses the term 'subscription' and even has episodic content, in the form of actual TV episodes. All we have to demonstrate that there were 'channels' dedicatied to specific content...like alt.binaries.multimedia.firefly, for an example of a 2002 group.

    Specific, episodic content that you subscribe to and your client (For example, NewsBin) can download automatically.

    Yes, that behavior would be illegal, but that doesn't stop it from being prior art.

    That alone seems to fit claim 1, 2

  • The whole idea of "push" media spawned back around 1995 with Pointcast, Marimba, BackWeb and others. It was The Next Big Thing(TM) and it was going to change the way we used the internet. Of course at the time most people were still using 28.8K dialup at home and didn't want to wait for an hour while all your new content downloaded as soon as you connected.

    Most of this was much more general than just pushing podcasts, but the whole idea of subscribing to a "channel" that updates you and automatically dow

  • I got one song a week. Does that count?

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