There is something all podcast listeners should be aware of: there are patent trolls seeking licensing fees from podcasters and suing them when they refuse to buy a license. That might not seem like a big deal, but it will significantly raise the cost of podcasting and, considering that the vast majority of podcasts aren’t profitable in terms of advertising, you will either have to pay a subscription to listen or watch as your favorite shows shut down.
“Patent troll” is an unkind yet fitting term for a non-practicing entity that buys patents and finds ways to profit off them. In this case, the patent they are trying to profit from has to do with releasing audio over the Internet in playlist form. Yeah, I don’t think that is a particularly innovative invention either. The question of whether this is legal is best summed up as: mostly, for now. Lawmakers are half-heartedly working towards patent reform and even President Obama has spoke out against this kind of trolling, but congress tends to accomplish little. More likely this will be settled in court. One of the most popular podcasters, comedian Adam Carolla, is going to court over this. The decision of the case will serve as a precedent that will inform the patent trolls’ audacity in suing others. So if they win against the biggest fish, they will likely hit up the smaller fish. That could mean the ESO Network, especially when they get even bigger than they currently are.
If you want to help head this off, Carolla has a Fund Anything page raising money for the defense. Just getting a change of venue from the town in Texas where the trolls are based and have influence is costing hundreds of thousands of dollars. They could use your help. All money donated will go to the defense, Fund Anything isn’t even taking their normal cut for hosting it. On the off chance they raise more than needed, the rest will be given to charity.
Full disclosure, I’m a Carolla fan and this directly affects him more than the Earth Station One Network. However, the fact that it could affect ESO and other shows you might like in the future is entirely true. The ability for non-practicing entities to profit solely by taking advantage of the system discourages content creation by increasing it’s costs and risks–and that is the real harm caused by these trolls.