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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.

BASIC PATENT DATA:

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

PATENT SUMMARY:

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!

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111 Answers 111

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They're not audio, but webcomics seem to fit the bill otherwise. Webcomics typically have individual pages for each comic as well as an archive page.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Webcomic#Early_webcomics

http://www.tcj.com/the-history-of-webcomics/

Some examples of webcomics series started before 1996 are

Argon Zark http://www.zark.com/front/about.html

Where The Buffalo Roam http://www.shadowculture.com/wtbr/site.html

Dr. Fun https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doctor_Fun

T.H.E. Fox http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T.H.E._Fox

Blogging also seems to me to be an example of prior art:

http://nymag.com/news/media/15971/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_blogging

One of the first bloggers appears to have been Justin Hall who started his blog in 1994 http://links.net/re/

0

From at least June 13, 1996, the Oyez Supreme Court multimedia archive provides an exact match for the patent claims. The project was originally hosted at Northwestern University. April 2nd 1997 is the earliest archived page:
http://web.archive.org/web/19970402082452/http://oyez.at.nwu.edu/oyez.html
However, this CNET report from June 1996:
http://news.cnet.com/CDA-rejected-in-landmark-ruling---page-5/2009-1023_3-214448-5.html
indicates that the Oyez project had been operating as an indexed archive of downloadable episodic audio content since at least mid 1996:

An archive of RealAudio files of Supreme Court oral arguments and opinions can be heard at Northwestern University's Academic Technologies Department.

The project still exists but is now hosted at Chicago-Kent University: http://www.oyez.org/about

The project as it was in the version archived in April 1997 (which appears to be consistent with the CNET description in June 1996) matches the claims in the patent in the following ways:

  • Downloadable RealAudio files (of US Supreme Court oral arguments) are indexed by date.
  • The content was episodic: as new Supreme Court cases were heard, new RA files were added to the index.
  • The content contained URLs pointing to the audio content (as an RA graphical logo and an "Oral Arguments" text link)
  • Each audio file had accompanying text describing its content (a text description of the Supreme Court case)

An example of the above system can be seen at this April 1997 archived page:
http://web.archive.org/web/19970402083126/http://oyez.at.nwu.edu/cases/94-926/

0

As a non-lawyer who knows little about patents, I'll risk putting my two cents in here. What's the difference between a system that creates a "compilation list" on a server and streams music in digital data form out to clients, and an enterprise print queue that streams digital data in the form of print jobs out to client printers scattered around an organization?

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Remember the jukebox system they used to have in diners in the 50s and 60s? There was a client terminal at each booth and a server that held the records. When people would enter their selection in the booth, it would be stored at the central jukebox, er, the music server, and the selections would be played throughout the diner in the order they were entered. Sounds like a playlist to me! Maybe Seeburg or one of the other jukebox manufacturers has an actual patent on this that might serve to vitiate this patent claim.

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I am certainly not an attorney, but two examples of possible defenses come to mind, which might bear investigating:

This is a Wikipedia link to some of the earliest webcasting efforts, all prior to 1996: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_radio

Additionally, you might want to seek out Danni Ashe, owner of the website danni.com. Although adult in nature, they streamed original content, and I believe people could also go through archival content. She has been on the web since 1995.

Reading the patent, it seems to be a patent for a player, and not applicable to most podcasts, as podcasts do have a "fast-forward" feature, but it is not accurate in relation to skipping "announcements" (commercials), as highlighted in the patent description. As a podcaster who receives no monetary compensation for my efforts, but does it for the love of entertaining a small audience, I wish you the best going forward, and thank you for fighting the good fight. Sincerely, Rick Bailey-Host www.stfushow.com

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  • Welcome to Ask Patents. I am looking forward to your future posts. One of the conventions we try to stick to on Ask Patents and the other Stack Exchange sites is to not use closing signatures.
    – George White
    Jul 4 '13 at 6:17
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If memory serves Mad Magazine 40 years ago included small vinyl record in some issues of their magazine. May want to contact giz wiz twit network Eddie debartolo.

EDIT: June 1973

Mad Magazine Presents: Gall in the Family Fare

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iowCW6s7HMc

It came as Flexi-Disc 7 in. soft vinyl as a part of the magazine.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mad_(magazine)#Recordings

It's subscription, and it's episodic in nature (it's a magazine on LP, and in 1996, CD)

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  • Thanks for contributing to Ask Patents. Those records might seem relevant from the title of the post and the patent application but it is the claims for which prior art is being sought. The claims require a data storage server, communications interfaces, storage locations pointed to by URLs and downloading. Some cool records in magazines were episodic and were media but there were no data storage servers, downloading etc.
    – George White
    Jul 4 '13 at 6:08
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If you want to go WAY BACK then John Giorno's Dial A Poem, 1969 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dial-A-Poem. The first of the 'dial up for spoken word/poetry' - the subscription being the phone number, the delivery mechanism the line, the device is the phone. As a delivery system it seems FAR closer to podcasting than sending tapes in the mail!

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  • Welcome to Ask Patents. One of the conventions of this site is to not have signatures, so I am editing your post to remove it. You can put that type of information in your profile.
    – George White
    Jul 4 '13 at 18:35
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An aside in a 1986 Usenet post to net.music.synth about "Audio Data Reduction Techniques" covers many of the claims in the patent:

Applications for compressed audio on nonmechanical media certainly exist (e.g. in toys), and I would not be surprised to learn that music distributors soon might download compressed audio to digital jukeboxes.

So this 1986 comment suggests:

  • Audio stored on central servers (implied)
  • The audio is compressed
  • The audio is episodic (given the term "music distributors" and the fact the proposal is about jukeboxes)

However the proposal does not mention URLs, or additional descriptive text.

See https://groups.google.com/d/msg/net.music.synth/2FJEnQNF3bY/vEvkQK9gPQQJ

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A 1991 posting to newsgroup misc.handicap on "audio readers" states:

This same newspaper is starting an online service where anyone could call the newspaper's computer and download whatever they would like to read.

The system described therefore covers downloading episodic audio content from a remote server. (Given the early date, presumably via direct modem connection to the remote server). Without further information on the system, it is not possible to say how the audio content was indexed and whether it had accompanying text.

See https://groups.google.com/d/msg/misc.handicap/NKjlMLsUsZQ/XJCDoSIx0EcJ

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A May 1995 announcement in newsgroup rec.music.celtic on "Mulligans Bar Amsterdam music list" provides an exact match to the patent claims from more than a year before filing:

Mulligans Irish Music Bar in Amsterdam is now on the Net with their monthly music list.

< URL:http://www.nikhefk.nikhef.nl/~keeshu/mulligans/mulmonth.html>

From this page you can download audio samples (AIFC) of several of the perfoming musicians/groups.

So:

  • Audio content was downloadable from a remote server
  • A system of URLs on that server indexed said content
  • Accompanying descriptive text about the bands was provided
  • The page was a "monthly music list" describing each month's performers, so the audio content was episodic

See https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/rec.music.celtic/H6g22fnMNKo

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The BBC was providing a transcription service (also an early example of ecommerce) via FTP in September 1994 (http://support.bbc.co.uk/support/history.html). Presumably this provided a list of files, updated regularly, which users could download.

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The official Johnny Mnemonic movie website from at the latest 2nd May 1995 completely matches all claims in the patent from well over a year before the filing date. It was episodic (content changed daily).

Here is a Usenet post on 2nd May 1995 noting its launch:
https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/rec.arts.movies.people/AYtUb_APqiE

Ran across a new WWW page exclusively for Keanu Reeves' upcoming movie Johnny Mnemonic.. You can download audio/video/still clips from the movie.. They change clips everyday.. .Kinda cool.. you can also download some sort of Virtual Reality type thing just like in the movie.

The earliest copy in the Internet archive is from June 1997:

Archive.org has even archived some of the movie and audio clips, for example:
http://web.archive.org/web/19970616235811/http://www.spe.sony.com/Pictures/SonyMovies/movs/clip5.MOV

As well as the statement about episodicity in the usenet post, the site itself made it explicit by stating:

Keep tuning in to see and hear the clips of the day. Collect the whole set of exclusive Johnny media.

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LugRadio was a Linux news show that began podcasting in 26 Feb 2004, and stopped regular releases on 19th July 2008. (http://lugradio.org/episodes/#episode1)

Their shows contained segments that often had recurring themes and all their shows had detailed show notes containing links.

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Have you looked into Microsoft TV, WebTV for Windows, and/or the earlier "Microsoft Guide" project? The dates I have for Microsoft TV and WebTV for Windows are 1998, and you're looking for something before October 1996, but the 1998 date is approximate. "Microsoft Guide" was earlier than that, but I don't know how public it was.

I briefly wrote about these in relation to an earlier EFF request relating to podcasting, episodes, etc. in US 7,568,213, as an example of uncovering software prior art through reverse engineering of software binaries:

http://www.softwarelitigationconsulting.com/articles/open-to-inspection-using-reverse-engineering-to-uncover-software-prior-art-part-2/

"... As an example, take a patent claim with the following limitations: media channel, predefined episodes, subscribing, downloading updates, checking available space, and deleting earlier episodes; the patent claims priority to applications filed in Nov. 2003.[16]

"A search was conducted across a limited set of Microsoft products for combinations of text including the following terms: episode, channel, subscribe, update, and download. Results were found in a Windows 98 program named tvx.exe and in two modules it references, named commmstv.dll and msepg.ocx. These 1998 files refer to “Microsoft TV Services” and “WebTV for Windows”. The tvx.exe file contains embedded SQL source code for manipulating a SQL database of television data. Further searching among Microsoft products, including a 1998 Microsoft “Platform SDK” (software development kit), yielded publically-available source-code files related to a TV project from the early 1990s named “Microsoft Guide”, an EPG (Electronic Program Guide) with support for episodes, channels, subscriptions, and so on.

"[16] This example was selected, more or less at random, from US Patent 7,568,213, which has been reported as a “patent for podcasting” ..."

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Digital Generation, Inc. (aka DG, later DG FastChannel, and now Extreme Reach by acquisition) was founded in 1991. Beginning in the early 1990's, DG used the internet for the distribution of radio commercials and other content (music releases and possibly episodic radio shows) to stations across the United States through a network of up loaders (recording studios and content creators), DG servers, and downloaders (radio & TV stations, and other end users). The DG business model included notification by FAX and/or email of new content for download, tracking of the upload/download process, and at some point in time online access to notices/catalogs/histories/content. In some instances, content was automatically delivered (pushed) by internet download to terminals installed at radio stations. In other instances, stations manually downloaded (pulled) newly available files or retrieved older content from DG servers after losing it or flushing it out the on site terminal.

I used the early DG system in 1993 as an uploader and have used it continuously through it's current evolution into Extreme Reach. Followup with early founders of DG may reveal information about their possible consideration of patents and prior art.

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This LA Times article from July 8th, 1996 looks promising. It first describes "TheDJ Player", a Windows 95 app that lets you select from 20,000 songs, listen to them on demand, and optionally purchase a CD.

It also makes mention to lalive.com which has a browsable archive of past live concerts that it streamed. The oldest snapshot archive.org is in early 2007, but the above article mentions it's past archive playback service existing at that time.

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This is perhaps oversimplified, but a playlist is just a list, yes? And if you manually update that list on the server side, and manual refresh on the client side, isn't that essentially what running a playlist is, except without automation?

In other words, there is nothing that I see in the claim that has anything to do with automation. It only suggests that a file is maintained and changed, and that then the file is requested, and when there are changes, a subsequent request would reflect those changes.

By that definition, then, a simple list that is updated would fulfill this definition, without any automation. The claimants original company was, in fact, not automated, but instead was hand assembled and delivered list of content on tape - the opposite of automation.

Since the < list > tag was included in the 1993 HTML spec, would not then its mere existence preclude this particular patent from being valid?

In order for there to be something patentable, you'd have to automate that obvious and already included function. Without automation, you simply have the Internet and HTML as it was originally designed.

Am I wrong with this argument?

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Cu-SeeMe (1993) was a multi-media video conferencing system that provided one-to-many, a several-to-several, or a several-to-many conference depending on user needs and hardware capabilities. Here's the Cu-SeeMe Cookbook:

http://www.cadvision.com/blanchas/education/cu-seeme/cuseeme.txt

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From http://www.joybubblesthemovie.com/synopsis.html:

During the last thirteen years of his life, before passing away from congestive heart failure in the summer of 2007, Joybubbles hosted a radio program called 'Stories and Stuff,' on his answering machine. He updated the show weekly, and made the recording available to anyone who called the number +1 206-FEELING. Joybubbles loved to tell stories about his imaginary friends, telephones, eternal childhood, and sensual pleasures he enjoyed, like the smell of chlorinated swimming pools, eating gooey angel food cake, and listening to the sound of venetian blinds fluttering in the wind.

http://audio.textfiles.com/shows/storiesandstuff/

http://www.radiolab.org/2012/feb/20/long-distance/

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In 2001: A Space Odyssey, Chapter 9 (p. 55 of the 1984 reprint):

he would plug his foolscap-sized newspad into the ship's information circuit and scan the latest reports from Earth... he quickly searched the headlines and noted the items that interested him

This likely fits within their definition and was originally published in 1968. While this example does not incorporate the concept of audio or moving video media, it is an example of media and the automatically updated list of current episodes/articles.

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I do not have an actual example, but when my Grandfather became blind in the early 90s, a disability group gave him recordings of specific articles, magazines and books at his request. I am unsure of the actual organization, we live in Minnesota, but that should definitely show the obviousness of this patent. I'm sure they were doing this for some time before even the 90s to assist blind people throughout the country.

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    This question is asking for prior art, which needs to be a document with a verifiable publication date. Anecdotal evidence isn't helpful. And your example doesn't address the aspect of a communicating over a network with URLs for individual episodes.
    – stharward
    Jun 8 '13 at 0:31
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