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


RTÉ To Everywhere was a project started in 1994 to distribute news broadcasts from Ireland to ex-pats around the world. Two broadcasts a day were made available via ftp, initially in *.au format, with a week's worth available at any given time. There were mirror sites in the UK, Sweden, the US and Australia.

Further information at http://chien-noir.com/rte.html. Looks like the Sunsite UNC mirror is still up: a snapshot of 29th November 1995: ftp://sunsite.unc.edu/pub/academic/languages/gaelic/Rte/


There seems to a variety of potentially useful records here: [ http://museum.media.org/radio/ ]


Try getting in touch with whoever produced Sci-Fi Channel's Seeing Ear Theatre: http://timespast.ning.com/profiles/blogs/sci-fi-channel-s-seeing-ear-theater http://www.sffaudio.com/?p=19883

I believe they were first publishing in 1997, but they most likely got the idea from somewhere else and started work before then.


Wouldn't Carl Malamud's Internet Talk Radio be considered the earliest form of podcasting? Or would podcasting not be just an extension of Malamud's system?


While I don't have any specific instances of prior art I do have a suggestion. For this particular instance you might want to look at educational institutions. Many of these were using the internet way before the mass influx, as it were, and I am sure there would be quite a few examples of prior art a la podcasting or something similar.

I'll ask around some of the engineering/IT instructors to see if they have anything they can point to and post again if I find anything.


In 1900, the U.S. Patent Office granted Tesla patents 645,576 and 649,621, the fundamental design of the Tesla coils, on March 20 and May 15. The invention of these coils led directly to the invention of radio. Through the 1950's regularly scheduled shows or broadcasts were made available to listeners via episodic programs.

The encapsulation of this scheduled audio program within a computer system is "obvious to those skilled in the art."

Further, scheduled fetching of files and creating an index of those files over the internet was present within every web based search engine including AltaVista, HotBot & Lycos.


It seems like the FTP (File Transfer Protocol) might be a good prior art example against this patent on files being transferred between computers over the internet. The date of the below document is Oct 1985. This FTP process that was created almost 10 years before this soon to be disputed podcasting patent had features and technical functions that are almost identical to how podcasting works. The basics are ordered files being either manually or automatically being transferred over the internet between computer type devices with storage capabilities.

See link below.


The objectives of FTP are 1) to promote sharing of files (computer programs and/or data), 2) to encourage indirect or implicit (via programs) use of remote computers, 3) to shield a user from variations in file storage systems among hosts, and 4) to transfer data reliably and efficiently. FTP, though usable directly by a user at a terminal, is designed mainly for use by programs.

Definition of a "File":

An ordered set of computer data (including programs), of arbitrary length, uniquely identified by a pathname.


A sequential file may be structured as a number of contiguous parts called records. Record structures are supported by FTP but a file need not have record structure.


The data transfer process, in its normal "active" state, establishes the data connection with the "listening" data port. It sets up parameters for transfer and storage, and transfers data on command from its PI. The DTP can be placed in a "passive" state to listen for, rather than initiate a connection on the data port.

server-FTP process

A process or set of processes which perform the function of file transfer in cooperation with a user-FTP process and, possibly, another server. The functions consist of a protocol interpreter (PI) and a data transfer process (DTP).

  • 1
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    – Riking
    May 31 '13 at 6:23

Wouldn't Gopher count? It would be a page with links to content, I'm sure you could find a Gopher page (were they called pages?) with links to audio files (were they called links?)

Or for that matter, just a web page could semantically match the patent language.

After all, its the page (or gopher page) is an index with URLs that can be "downloaded to a client device" (your computer).


A quick Google search revealed that MP3 as a file format was patented in Germany in 1989, and the US in Nov 1996. http://inventors.about.com/od/mstartinventions/a/MPThree.htm This is interesting only because of what it was developed for, namely Digital Audio Broadcasting specifically over phone lines.

Although the DAB standard was used primarily for digital radio broadcasting in Europe, a direct and easy link from digital radio broadcasting technology to internet technology could be made given the stated purpose of MP3s by its developer to, "quality transmit of [digital] audio over phone lines," since most internet connections were phone line based at the time.

Oh well, it isn't much, but good luck, Ben


How about software tutorials that contained video. Eg "new feature in _" although this may or my not not have called back to a server. Or any type of automated software update system that gives users the choice to update or not. It seems that this is more general which may make specific file type "obvious".


I am uncertain if this covers the criteria you're looking for, but Penn Jillette's old show comes to mind, and fits the requested dates: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penn_Radio


Radio station automation and traffic management is essentially the same thing, except the 'player' is the transmitter. The nature of the interface and storage is essentially the same. See, for example, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Audicom, from 1989, with a screen display that looks familiar to any of the early-generation desktop music players. It has the added prior-art bonus of using lossily-compressed data files.


In 1986 Jeff Harrow of Digital Equipment Corporation started the beginning of "the rapidly changing face of computing", a series of technology reports that would become one of the first if not the first multi media webcast. I don't remember exactly when he started making audio files of these web casts available for download but I am pretty sure it was prior to 1992. I used to listen to them when I worked at Digital Equipment Corp in the early 1990's. See question 2 at : http://crnano.org/interview.harrow.htm.


What about the M3U format? I think that serves as the compilation file, and supported URLs. Fraunhofer's first MP3 player used it. I don't know of a specific case of it being hosted and used in the method described but the folks there, or at winamp may have the concise examples you need.


Binary Revolution (http://www.binrev.com/forums/index.php/files/category/3-binary-revolution-radio/) ran from July 8, 2003 to Feb 01 2010 03:02 PM. As well as streaming live, their shows live but also released their shows as a mp3 file for download after the show. The shows were released with show notes.

The shows and textfiles are archived here http://audio.textfiles.com/shows/binrev/


The Linux Link Tech Show (http://tllts.org/) have been releasing shows since September 24, 2003 and have been releasing their chat logs from IRC along with the shows that contain links to images and other media.


Serial and non-serial release from Ray Bradbury in various audio formats: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ray_Bradbury_bibliography#Audio_releases dated as early as 1958


I purchased tapes of a Daily Radio Segment "The Daily Feed" in 1993, 1994, 1995 & 1996. These were tapes with recorded episodes in sequential order. Year end tapes were available since at least 1986. http://www.dailyfeed.com/


The invention flexi-discs may have some bearing on this case. They are periodic-media disseminated via magazines as either supplemental or showcase material: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flexi_disc


The internet exists because servers supply media to clients across a network. That was the original intention of DARPA, and Sir GB Lee when the internet was created. Their work far predates any claims made in the patent assertion above.

  • 1
    I don't think they were focused on prerecorded media episodes. To be useful as prior art something needs to have all or many of the "limitations" of a claim laid out explicitly or inherently.
    – George White
    Jun 4 '13 at 21:22

In "The Real Frank Zappa Book" chapter 19, Frank proposed a system for the delivery of music, digitally, over phone or cable lines, to the home, for storage on consumer devices, INCLUDING SUBSCRIPTION SERVICES, content to be determined via electronic catalog, which sounds substantially identical to the patent described here. (Google books preview link)

This is found on pp 337 - 340 of the hardcover, which was published in 1989 (and Frank's dedication, presumably the last thing written, is dated August 23, 1988 06:39:37). At that early date, I'd call that both novel and non-obvious.


I've been using a site called wayback machine (http://archive.org/web/web.php). Unfortunately it only goes back to November 6, 1996 for this site


But at that point it already had over 300 music samples to download.

If your looking for the guy who started it, here's his linked in page. He says he started it in 1994.



Also, using wayback machine, I was able to go to a website I made in 1999 called music monkey. It was a snapshot at that time of music links on the internet. There may be links to other sites in here that predate Oct 1996.



I'm pretty sure my grandmother, who was blind, used a service like this in the early 90's - but the only thing I could find was this company: http://www.blindskills.com/2012_Spring_Sample1.html

They might know of other organizations for the blind who provided audio services.


Volokh, Eugene Cheap speech and what it will do; Emerging Media Technology and the First Amendment. Yale Law Journal ISSN: 0044-0094 May 1, 1995 Pg. 1805-1850 Vol. 104 No. N7

The Section on Music & The Electronic Music Dabase - Dealing W/ Information Overload - Custom Mix Cable Radio describes something very similar to the podcasts I listen to where music is curated along a specific genre line & placed on the web for consumption. It suggests downloading it to your computer & burning to a disc.


Braun, Jenifer. "What a tangled Web they weave." The Star-Ledger (Newark, New Jersey). September 22, 1996 Sunday

Describes episodic web soap operas. The format is not specifically audio content, but includes episodic audio content.


Beauchamp, Lane. "Get spanqued!; It may be the Net's first daily talk show. Whatever, its hosts promise a bit of fun" Kansas City Star July 6, 1996 SECTION: FYI; Pg E5;

"Spanq! - the version with the "q" - makes its debut Monday on the Web and is being touted as the first daily talk show created exclusively for the Internet. It will be a cleverly packaged, three-minute audio update on what's new or interesting on the Web."

Very similar to a lot of tech podcasts today. But it wasn't archived. Only available for streaming that day.


Krugozor was doing something like this


  • Thanks for your answer. The style of this site is to post answers that are self contained enough for readers to get the the point without needing to follow a link. Particularly in the case of a link to a site in a language other than English it would be great if you edit your answer to let us know what you see as the significance of the site you are linking to.
    – George White
    Jun 9 '13 at 6:44

Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOGs) could be argued to be episodic in nature, as publishers would distribute patches and updates via the internet, often adding new content.

One of the earliest examples of an MMOG is Meridian 59, which was publishing updates via the internet as early as 1995, according to their official website.


There is a paper published by Robert Jensen in the July/August 1993 edition of Academe Magazine entitled "The Technology of the Future is Already Here" which describes professors being able to reach students all over the world with audiovisual presentations among other things. The paper specifically mentions the internet as a means.

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