A patent troll has been going around sending threatening letters and demanding money from podcasters for violating his patent. This patent troll wants to use the legal system to force podcasters (potentially all podcasters) to make him rich while he does nothing. This is galling on several levels: it harms creators and it makes lazy patent trolls rich. These patent trolls are little more than parasites.
Admittedly, this problem is just a symptom of a larger problem with the US patent laws: the ability to patent vague processes which are obvious and high-tech versions of existing technology.
“Patent troll Personal Audio has sued top podcasters including Adam Carolla and HowStuffWorks, claiming that they own the patent for delivery of episodic content over the Internet. Adam Carolla is fighting back and has started a Fund Anything campaign to cover legal fees. From the Fund Anything campaign page: ‘If Adam Carolla loses this battle, then every other Podcast will be quickly shut down. Why? Because Patent Trolls like Personal Audio would use a victory over Carolla as leverage to extort money from every other Podcast.. As you probably know, Podcasts are inherently small, owner-operated businesses that do not have the financial resources to fight off this type of an assault. Therefore, Podcasts as we know them today would cease to exist.’ James Logan of Personal Audio answered Slashdotters’ questions in June 2013. Links to the patent in question can be found on Personal Audio’s website. The EFF filed a challenge against Personal Audio’s podcasting patent in October 2013.”
I gave money to this. So should you.
For more information, This American Life has two podcast episodes on this:
This American Life: When Patents Attack
This American Life: When Patents Attack, Part 2