This call for prior art is part of EFF's effort to bust a patent being asserted against podcasting. Read more about the initiative here. Help narrow US patent applications before they become patents HERE

This issued patent relates to a system for distributing serial episodes of media content over the Internet.


  • Patent Number: US 8,112,504
  • Assignee: Personal Audio, LLC
  • Prior Art Cutoff Date: Prior art must predate October 2, 1996


The patent generally relates to a system whereby a server provides media content to client devices over the Internet. On the server, the provider maintains a “compilation file,” which is essentially a list of available media files. The compilation file generally includes the URL for each available media file in a series and may also include descriptive text. This compilation file may be static, such as a simple web page with links to each available file to which new files are added, or may be customized for a particular user, perhaps only showing them content from feeds to which they have subscribed.

The claim that has been asserted against podcasters to date is Claim 31. This claim is agnostic as to the media type representing “episodes.” It can be images, text, video, or audio. Prior art can involve any media format. Some dependent claims specifically require audio, however, so prior art of that type is especially useful.

Claim 31: Apparatus for disseminating a series of episodes represented by media files via the Internet as said episodes become available, said apparatus comprising:

  • one or more data storage servers,
  • one or more communication interfaces connected to the Internet for receiving requests received from remotely located client devices, and for responding to each given one of said requests by downloading a data file identified by a URL specified by said given one of said requests to the requesting client device,
  • one or more processors coupled to said one or more data storage servers and to said one or more communications interfaces for:

    • storing one or more media files representing each episode as said one or more media files become available, each of said one or more media files being stored at a storage location specified by a unique episode URL;

    • from time to time, as new episodes represented in said series of episodes become available, storing an updated version of a compilation file in one of said one or more data storage servers at a storage location identified by a predetermined URL, said updated version of said compilation file containing attribute data describing currently available episodes in said series of episodes, said attribute data for each given one of said currently available episodes including displayable text describing said given one of said currently available episodes and one or more episode URLs specifying the storage locations of one or more corresponding media files representing said given one of said episodes; and

    • employing one of said one or more communication interfaces to:

      • (a) receive a request from a requesting client device for the updated version of said compilation file located at said predetermined URL;
      • (b) download said updated version of said compilation file to said requesting client device; and
      • (c) thereafter receive and respond to a request from said requesting client device for one or more media files identified by one or more corresponding episode URLs included in the attribute data contained in said updated version of said compilation files.

REPRESENTATIVE PRIOR ART: Examples of prior art include the prior art identified on the face of the patent and Deb Kumar Roy (June 1995), NewsComm: A Hand-Held Interface for Interactive Access to Structured Audio, available at http://dspace.mit.edu/bitstream/handle/1721.1/60444/33214083.pdf?sequence=1

QUESTION: Have you seen any additional prior art (published before October 2, 1996) that describes a system like the one in Claim 31?

We are interested in any prior art that describes accessing a series of media files organized as episodes, tracks, installments, or the like, through the use of “compilation” data that (a) available to be downloaded by a client device, and (b) updated to describe the media files that are currently available. We are particularly interested in prior art where this “compilation” data includes both URLs for the individual media files, and some other displayable text describing each available episode/track/installment.

If you do know prior art, please submit evidence of that prior art as an answer below. Please submit only one piece of prior art per answer below. We welcome multiple prior art proposals from the same individual, but please create separate answers for each one so the community can vet each individual piece of prior art independently.

For details about what makes good prior art, please see our FAQ. Once you have submitted prior art, check back soon to see if the Ask Patents community has chosen your prior art as a candidate to submit to the United States Patent & Trademark Office. If you'd like to contribute in another way, please vote or comment on submissions made below. And we welcome you to post your own request for prior art if you know of another questionable patent or patent application. Thanks for participating!


111 Answers 111


USENET is full of examples of prior art as listed. Especially alt.internet.talk-radio.


Here's a post about some serious downloadable files used for the Internet Multicasting Service!

Copied below is the disseminated FAQ on the Internet from 1995. Probably searching on keywords in this file will get you further back. Google rocks for loading up USENET to google groups. Accessed this file at the above link by me @ 7pm on May 30 2013.

Google link to the Internet Multicasting Service FAQ:


There's also this posting from March 4, 1995:


which describes a website where you can get episode lists and download episodes of some popular programs.

Unfortunately the wayback machine only goes back to Dec 1996 at town.hall.org: http://web.archive.org/web/19961223103237/http://town.hall.org/

but they clearly have older radio station programs and episodes on that list.

Looks like some users here have posted their paper, though, that looks pretty good.


Published in 1996

CBC Radio on the Internet: An Experiment in Convergence

Andrew S. Patrick, Alex Black, Thomas E. Whalen

An experimental trial was conducted to determine: (1) if there was any demand for regular radio programming distributed as digital audio files over the Internet, (2) if the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) was willing to distribute programming in this format, and (3) what implications such a service would have for the corporation. Both sample and regular radio programs were digitized using computer sound equipment and made available via FTP, Gopher, and World Wide Web. Analysis of the traffic logs and a review of the comments submitted by users showed a very high demand (possibly all that was possible with this trial configuration) and a keen interest in the service. CBC has decided to adopt the trial and start a permanent service on the Internet. The trial identified a number of issues that will have to be addressed for this service, including archival storage, copyright, royalties, production changes, and electronic commerce opportunities.

EDIT: Yes, this paper reports on work we did in 1994 and describes most of the features of the claim. Contact me for details: [email protected].


Back in 1995 we founded Precept Software (a California corporation) to develop video distribution systems for the internet.

As part of our product we had a "program guide" that aggregated content information - some from SD announcements on the mbone, others from scheduled content, others from recorded content. This presented a web page that a user could access to cause the launch of a video viewer on his/her computer to see that content.

I really don't remember the details; much design and coding of the program guide was done by Valerie Lasker. However, I do have copies of the product software.

I am not sure of the date when the program guide part was done - it was close to the issue date of the patent in question.

However, the SD protocol on the mbone was very much in operation in 1994 and it formed an index of content, although at that time not much content was episodic, although things like IETF meetings could be considered "episodes".

Also, RealAudio was mentioned and this, too, if I remember right had an index that one could browse.

Steve Casner (Packet Design) and Carl Malamud probably have useful information as well.

Simon Hacket (Internode) did an "internet juke box" back in the very early 1990's - well before the patent date - it consisted of an online CD player (with about 100 disks). One could browse the content (i.e. there was an index of the content) and cause selected disks to be played over the mbone.


Broadcast.com comes to mind

Broadcast.com used the RealAudio player to embed into web pages streaming audio. It was used in a variety of different ways to disseminate sound files. According to Wikipedia the original launch date of RealAudio was April, 1995.

Broadcast.com had a large assortment of programs indexed and listed in a number of ways to allow user selection.

A large number of radio shows, including Art Bell (see coasttocoastam.com) would archive many broadcasts of his show there for future replay over the intenet.

  • 2
    Yes, but at the time the site was called AudioNet (audionet.com). From the internet wayback machine, here's a copy of the Netcasts page from the site in December 1996. If the archive went further back, you could see something similar. We were archiving, and allowing rebroadcast from unique URL, of all kinds of shows. Commented May 31, 2013 at 2:01

Some of these might help.


What about one of the episodic / serial ASCII / ANSI / art / "Demo Scene" newsletters that were were part of the "BBS" culture?

They frequently included music audio, but even Text was listed above as one of the formats in the patent. Here is a page with links to the monthly installments of ACID, I believe it included visuals and music. Dated 1995:


This is a page with URLs to these files, which can be downloaded to a client device (your computer?) dated 1995.

Another good index of various art packs:


For example here is the yearly and monthly "packs" from Ice Art. Also included Text, Art and Music, starting in 1992. Either this page existed back then, or there would have been an index page linking to each of the packs:


More about Artpack and the "Computer Art Scene" if someone has some more time to do some digging: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computer_art_scene#Underground_status http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Artscene_groups

the BBS scene goes even further back - to the late 1980's. already on the Commodore 64 there were many of them, hosting amongst other things: regularly released scene-magazines (digital, not paper) and the afforementioned graphics and music compilation series and of course "Demos" - demonstrations of coding prowess, which often had sequels. here is a link to the longest running C64-BBS in history "Antidote" (1994 – 5 June 1999, 3 October 2003 -> present) http://www.triad.se/antidote


Internet CNN Newsroom, for distribution of daily video content, described in IEEE proceedings, May 1995.

CBC Radio on the internet study, Q1 1996, wherein experimental internet data was collected to measure potential demand for "regular radio programming distributed as digital files over the internet" http://www.cjc-online.ca/index.php/journal/article/viewArticle/926


At Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar http://kalvos.org/ we began offering multiple examples of musical material on our website, organized by composer, in 1994.

Our earliest files were Midi; these probably don't count, but they date to 3/14/94.

The oldest audio file still available on our site is dated 11/9/1995 in TrueSpeech format. Examples in MP2 format were posted on 3/5/96 and RealAudio the next day on 3/6/1996.

(Our earliest full show episodes in RA format were 7/6/97 and mp3 format on 11/1/98.)



It would also seem that any number of List-serv systems for transferring links, newsletters, and serialized media would fit the bill for prior art in this instance. Not to mention the mechanisms for streaming media presented by RealPlayer as early as 1995 would seem to include significant portions of the patent. With weekly shows such as Ask Dr. Science and many others that were syndicated using RealPlayer and other streaming services early on, prior art must exist with one of the early radio shows. I would also point out The Spot (http://www.thespot.com) which according to wikipedia was created in 1995. http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Spot


Seems similar to Internet Talk Radio/Geek of the Week (Carl Malamud, 1993, files for each episode with unique URLs). Not sure if this is the original domain, but here is the one I found.



This 1995 work is an automatic system for archiving news broadcasts, searching them by text, and playing them back on demand. It seems to hit most of the claims:


published as "Automatic Content-Based Retrieval of Broadcast News " in Proceedings ACM Multimedia 95, November 5-9, 1995 San Francisco, California


While not specifically for audio (or podcasting), The PointCast Network was founded in 1992 and launched its beta software Feb 13, 1996. It provided news, sports, weather, etc using 'push' technology to keep the feed fresh and up-to-date. More information can be found at the Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PointCast_%28dotcom%29

The PointCast system specifically allowed users to subscribe to channels of information that would then be played back at a later point in time. The data was fetched from different service providers and was fetched via URL's.

[Additional Info for Pointcast and other "push" technologies prior to 1997:] I found this info at http://www.berghel.net/publications/push/push.php - at the bottom of the archived page there is a list of then-current push clients for capturing news, music, and social commentary. Refer to the bottom of the page for a list of the clients and their underlying technologies. Hope this helps.


NASA has had the "Astronomy Picture of the Day" site since 1995. The index contains a list of links to articles that is updated as new articles are added.


I found this concerning M-Bone : http://www.nytimes.com/1995/02/08/business/business-technology-peering-out-a-real-time-window.html

By Peter H. Lewis. Dated February 8, 1995.

This article is primarily about M-Bone and the beginnings of live streaming internet radio. The interesting part of the article is the last paragraph about Internet Multicasting's "Geek of the Week" program. "The program, in which technical experts wax rhapsodic about protocols and bandwidth and other geeky subjects, is still available only as audio files that computer users fetch one by one."


There were many electronic journals online before 1996 — if any of them had a "latest articles" page that described each article and had a direct download link to a file (eg PDF or PostScript, possibly HTML) for each article, that would seem to fit the description of this claim.

Possible candidates include the Theory and Applications of Categories, which started publishing online in 1995. The Internet Archive has a capture from January 1997.


Art Bell's Coast to Coast radio program was available to download from broadcast.com. The files are Real Audio and have unique URLs.

I'm not sure how far back it goes. This link begins in May of 1996



The first thing that comes to mind is 2600's "Off The Hook" which, looking at the archive, dates to 1988. [ http://www.2600.com/offthehook/archive_ra.html ]


Liquid Audio was formed in 1995/1996 - and their patents bought by Microsoft in 2002 to fight another patent battle.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liquid_Audio http://articles.latimes.com/2002/oct/01/business/fi-liquid1

Online audio distribution system.


http://www.gutenberg.org/ has been disseminating distinct 'episodes' of specific collections or series of books and other documents in the public domain as they become available since back when the 'Internet' was still 'ARPANET'.

Project Gutenberg began in 1971 when Michael Hart was given an operator's account with $100,000,000 of computer time in it by the operators of the Xerox Sigma V mainframe at the Materials Research Lab at the University of Illinois. [...] An hour and 47 minutes later, he announced that the greatest value created by computers would not be computing, but would be the storage, retrieval, and searching of what was stored in our libraries. He then proceeded to type in the "Declaration of Independence" and tried to send it to everyone on the networks ... which can only be described today as a not so narrow miss at creating an early version of what was later called the "Internet Virus."

It's not audio, but I hope this is pertinent.


Arutz Sheva - Israel National Radio began its internet presence in 1995. We were one of the first live streaming internet stations in the world. Real Audio used us as a Beta tester. The following is archives pages from 1997 showing what we then called "on demand audio" which were recorded radio shows uploaded on the site. http://web.archive.org/web/19980201015049/http://www.virtual.co.il/news/news/arutz7/sound/#English For more old pages click here: http://web.archive.org/web/19980315000000*/http://a7.org To contact us today click here: http://www.israelnationalradio.com I remember back in 2005 when we first heard the term "podcasting" and I said, "don't we already do that?" We changed our "on demand audio" links to "podcast" links to match up with the times.



This is a link that I found describing an early "audiocast" from 1992


News websites. Eposodic news articles including images. HTML pages are multi-media files & they are downloaded to your machine.

  • Though this answer lacks specifics, I believe there were rudimentary versions of news outfits in the years prior to 02 Oct 1996. A history of reuters.com or nytimes.com may be a start; the Internet Archive doesn't go back as far as I'd like...
    – R.E.
    Commented Jun 26, 2013 at 15:59

1998 - "AND the article is about podcasting before podcasting was cool or even existed. In fact, few schools in the world were online at the time that these kids and I produced a digital radio show on the World Wide Web." http://stager.tv/blog/?p=577

  • This is after the cutoff.
    – Riking
    Commented May 31, 2013 at 6:19

The Internet Underground Music Archive is clear prior art in the terms you describe here

  • Here's a grab of the site from Oct 22 of 1996. After, but from this it had been up a while and has a copyright 1995 web.archive.org/web/19961022175511/http://www.iuma.com
    – Jay Barba
    Commented Jun 5, 2013 at 19:10
  • I agree that the IUMA is strong evidence that invalidates the patent's claims. I have posted two answers that substantiate the IUMA's prior existence with 3rd-party television broadcasts.
    – R.E.
    Commented Jun 26, 2013 at 16:03

Miller Brewing launched their MGDTapRoom website in 1994 as a monthly lifestyle site. Wayback machine provides an archive back to 1996, but the PastTap button shows previous month by month editions: http://web.archive.org/web/19961111045903/http://www.mgdtaproom.com/mgd-past.html

The old www.reddog.com site launched in 1995 as an episodic journey down Route 66 which include audio, video and animations.


WinPlay3 allowed for internet streaming and you could use M3U files saved locally as a "playlist" with direct links to the mp3 files you were going to play.

http://web.archive.org/web/20040818092820/www.rjamorim.com/rrw/winplay3.html http://web.archive.org/web/20080619002511/www.sonicspot.com/winplay/winplay.html http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WinPlay3



  1. A system for interactively viewing a selected one of a plurality of videos...the video data representing time sequenced image signals and audio signals for play-back on a viewing device, a communications network for transmitting the video data...

I hate it when my freely-redistributable ideas get patented. Happy to be deposed about how I invented this well before the putative patentee/thief. This CDROM has already been used as prior art to break another stupid patent.

[nelson@desk ~]$ ls -l /home/nelson/packet-driver-cdrom
-r-xr-xr-x   1 nelson root           545 Dec 20  1993 00_index.txt
[nelson@desk ~]$ grep -i crynwr.wav /home/nelson/packet-driver-cdrom/drivers/pktd11/manifest.doc
CRYNWR.WAV    .WAV audio file of a native Welsh speaker pronouncing Crynwr.
[nelson@desk ~]$ find packet-driver-cdrom/ -name crynwr.wav
[nelson@desk ~]$ grep -i crynwr.wav /home/nelson/packet-driver-cdrom/drivers/pktd11/manifest.doc
CRYNWR.WAV    .WAV audio file of a native Welsh speaker pronouncing Crynwr.
[nelson@desk ~]$ ls -l /home/nelson/packet-driver-cdrom/drivers/pktd11/manifest.doc
-r-xr-xr-x  1 nelson root 10687 Nov  9  1993 /home/nelson/packet-driver-cdrom/drivers/pktd11/manifest.doc
  • 1
    Hmmm.... Yes, Carl's ITR is much better prior art than this, which is "serving up indexed media files" .... not quite the same thing claimed. Commented May 31, 2013 at 3:44

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