Will Frank Zappa Save Podcasting?

Oct 31, 2013

Over the past few months, regular listeners of Marc Maron's WTF podcast have heard the comedian rail about a patent troll that is threatening the livelihood of many podcasters. For those of you who don't listen, Maron has also written about it on his blog. Here's the gist:

"If you all weren't aware yet you should know that some podcasters are under attack from patent trolls. Adam Carolla is actually being sued. A patent troll called Personal Audio claims to own the patent for podcasting and is suing Adam and some other podcasts and sent letters of coercion to me and about a dozen others."

In another blog post -- in which Maron also also attempts to crowdsource a solution to the problem -- he describes exactly what personal audio is claiming: "Specifically, Personal Audio makes the ridiculous claim that it invented an ‘apparatus for disseminating a series of episodes represented by media files via the Internet as said episodes become available.'" The lawyers fighting this particular troll needed to prove that someone else had come up with a similar idea before October 2, 1996, and Maron was hoping his fans might be able to help.

In a recent episode of WTF Maron interviewed Moon Zappa, and we all found out that Frank Zappa may just be the savior that podcasters needed. As it turns out, a fan happened to be reading Frank Zappa's autobiography and noticed that good old Frank had once come up with the idea to disseminate pieces of content over the phone lines. This was long before the internet became part of most of our lives, and the people Zappa tried to sell the idea to laughed him out of the office.

Maron also talks to the Electronic Frontier Foundation at the beginning of the episode about a petition they recently filed in this specific case. It's unclear if the EFF is specifically using Zappa as part of the defense (or how big of a part his idea would play), but I'd like to think of the late, great Zappa pleased that he's able to help fight off trolls from beyond the grave.