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The Podjacker Threat 354

Schlemphfer writes "As everyone knows by now, podcasting has taken off in a big way. But over the past week, several tech journals and The Daily Source Code have reported on the threat of 'podjacking,' the creation of an alternate RSS feed without the consent of the podcast's owner. I'm the host of a podcast, which has the dubious distinction of being the first widely-publicized victim of a podjacking. To teach others from my experiences I have posted an article entitled Preventing and Surviving a Podjacking (also available in PDF). So far this story has attracted widespread but generally inept media and blogger coverage. This article sets the record straight on what really happened, and shows the simple steps every podcaster should take to protect their shows from podjacking."
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The Podjacker Threat

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  • Easy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Hey Pope Felcher . . ( 921019 ) on Friday December 09, 2005 @01:28PM (#14220917)
    Why not just let the podcast be distributed, and announce the name of your website at various intervals?

    Not only will this allow the wider distribution of your ramblings, but also help save on bandwidth.
  • Apple? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by RPoet ( 20693 ) on Friday December 09, 2005 @01:29PM (#14220936) Journal
    Apple has nothing to do with this story, so I don't see why it's filed in the Apple category. Apple did not invent podcasting; they were even late adopters of it.
  • by wild_berry ( 448019 ) on Friday December 09, 2005 @01:30PM (#14220952) Journal
    His RSS feed was no longer the unique source of downloaders, that's all. The guy had and has many listeners who found access to his podcast through non-sanctioned mirrors of his RSS feed. He thought he controlled the access to his podcast via his RSS feed, but the Internet has lots of redundancy -- without his realising so. Someone else found his material via other means, for which he isn't able to track site visitors, and this upset him. I'm not really sympathetic.

    Perhaps there is mileage in protecting one aggregator of news on the web, but you hardly see Taco complaining that ArsTechnica and Digg find ways to present the same news resources to their readers.
  • Same as hotlinking (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 09, 2005 @01:31PM (#14220960)
    Please, for the love of God, stop making up these stupid blog/pod mashup words for insignificant events. Someone made a metadata file that points to your content. This is the same as hotlinking (where someone makes an HTML file that points to your content). Who cares?
  • by voice_of_all_reason ( 926702 ) on Friday December 09, 2005 @01:35PM (#14221008)
    So, basically someone lied about where a link on their webpage went. OH NOES! MY INTERNETS!!!!111oneoneelven
  • by eltoyoboyo ( 750015 ) on Friday December 09, 2005 @01:37PM (#14221024) Journal
    From TFA the problem was similar to search engine content hijacking, which I have experienced. I have never directly subscribed to a feed in this way. I have always navigated to the home page first and then clicked on the RSS/ATOM/XML link to add to my feed.

    Which is my way of saying that search engines are good, but
    <dons jounalism professor hat>
    you have to check your sources.
    <doffs jounalism professor hat>
  • *Scratches Head* (Score:2, Insightful)

    by kermitthefrog917 ( 903403 ) on Friday December 09, 2005 @01:38PM (#14221031)
    I still have no idea what a freaking podcast is and how it is any different than normal streamed audio. Or what a blog is in comparison to a personal daily-updated website. Or what a...

    Seriously... It seems that stupid people decided on stupid terms so that they could express their stupid selves online even though they could have done it before. That's a lot of stupidity. And stupidity is an odd thing: It never gets used up. Maybe its like entropy, is always increasing...

  • by tpgp ( 48001 ) on Friday December 09, 2005 @01:45PM (#14221095) Homepage
    Do we HAVE to invent new contorted words for every variation of everything these days?

    Well, Podjacking certainly sounds better (to the writer of the linked article anyway) then I'm-a-retard-who-doesn't-understand-how-the-intern et-works-jacking

    Yeeeesh. No doubt people foolish enough to get sucked into using the word 'podcast' will lap this up like the sheep they are....
  • by Surt ( 22457 ) on Friday December 09, 2005 @01:48PM (#14221126) Homepage Journal
    If you read the article, I think you'll find he has a pretty legitimate concern. Imagine if google kept url listings. Which they do: m&start=0&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&client=firefox-a&rls=o rg.mozilla:en-US:official []

    Now imagine that they allowed anyone to register a site mapping. For example, maybe I should register, and have it forwarded through my domain. Then one day, maybe, I decide that instead of forwarding to the real yahoo site, i'll just redirect all the visitors to my own site. What's to stop me?

    That's the problem with podjacking.
  • I don't get it (Score:4, Insightful)

    by wampus ( 1932 ) on Friday December 09, 2005 @01:51PM (#14221159)
    So, as I understand this, more people were listening to the podcast, because some aggregator site picked up his feed. Whats the problem here? Read your damn URI at the start and end of the show and be glad you are getting heard.

    If you want absolute control over the content you are creating, start a regular radio station and pay the FCC for a monopoly on your slice of the air. Better hire some IP lawyers and invest heavily in DRM, too.
  • Re:Easy (Score:2, Insightful)

    by salzbrot ( 314893 ) on Friday December 09, 2005 @01:54PM (#14221189)
    If you (and the person who modded you interesting) had read TFA, you knew that this does not help you save bandwidth.

    The podjacker creates a feed that points to your podcast, so the podcast gets downloaded still from _your_ site. Now he gets this feed as the "official" feed for your show listed on iTunes, yahoo etc. At this point, you are at his mercy. So if he decides to delete this feed (as happened in this case), you loose all the subscribers that subscribed via this feed, which is essentially all except for the few that subscribed directly through your website.

    What is even more scary is, he could point his feed to a completely different podcast or download yours, add commercials to it and earn money from your hard work without you even noticing while your listeners think you put the adds in there.
  • by bigtallmofo ( 695287 ) on Friday December 09, 2005 @01:54PM (#14221191)
    Someone else found his material via other means, for which he isn't able to track site visitors, and this upset him.

    You're right on here, but read a little further in the article and you realize he asked for the listings directly from the "Podjacker"! After he admits this, he says that they didn't do it how he assumed they would have done it. Then he goes on to still label them a "Podjacker".

    I responded to an email somebody sent me about, and I gave the site a visit and submitted my URL for a few listings. When I launched my show in October of 2004 I went everywhere I could to post its URL, and I quickly forgot all about my five minute visit to podkeyword.

    I guess the only remaining comment I have on this topic is that I'd like the 5 minutes I spent reading the article back. Total waste of time - there literally is nothing to see here.
  • by AMusingFool ( 740537 ) on Friday December 09, 2005 @01:55PM (#14221199)
    Seems like embedding the official URL in the mp3 metadata would be a good first step in establishing control.
  • nice article (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 09, 2005 @01:58PM (#14221226)
    Nice article. It's a disturbing scenario. He offers good advise on how to avoid it. I feel like I learned a bit about the technical underpinnings of podcasting too.

    I am hoping that podcasting will put a dent in the mostly monopolized radio and TV markets by offering fresh content from independent sources who don't need to have mucho dinero to start distributing their content. Eventually this freer market will hopefully let the better programming rise to the top...putting pressure on the TV and radio monopolists to get with it! I can't wait for the first show to be migrated from podcast to radio. That would be a newsworthy event.

    I like his reference to the Creative Commons and how useful it is in such a situation.

  • by Surt ( 22457 ) on Friday December 09, 2005 @02:19PM (#14221422) Homepage Journal
    I doubt that the method of indexing was explained in the fine print. When I sign up with an indexing service, such as google, I have an expectation that they are listing my site. The advantage for them is advertising: listeners looking for shows come to their site, and they have a lot of shows if I and others participate in the bargain.

    What I specifically do not expect, is for them to forward listeners to my site through a frame, keeping the bookmarks of my users for my site pointed at google. I expect that delisting from google will have no impact on existing bookmarks for my site's users, just that new users will not find my site on google.

    Furthermore, the indexing service went and registered his show on other search engines, also redirecting through their site, and that definitely wasn't an expected part of the bargain. And now he's having trouble getting his listing corrected with other indexing sites, because they all think the podjacker owns the show.

  • Re:RTFA (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Surt ( 22457 ) on Friday December 09, 2005 @02:31PM (#14221564) Homepage Journal
    He asked for a listing, not for a forwarding. There's a rather important difference.
  • by Surt ( 22457 ) on Friday December 09, 2005 @02:43PM (#14221696) Homepage Journal
    The problem is, they made themselves out to be a directory service, not a forwarding service. A directory service maintains pointers to content, rather than forwarding content. That way delisting doesn't impace existing users of the content. TinyURL is in the forwarding business, and they make that clear.

    Furthermore, the 'service' registered his show on legitimate directory services as coming from them. I can't see any way to make that look legitimate. It would be like finding out that tiny url went and registered themselves on google as being the source for your website!
  • by JackDW ( 904211 ) on Friday December 09, 2005 @02:53PM (#14221784) Homepage
    Ironically, Maddox's page about bloggers is itself an article on Maddox's blog. Maddox is clearly a man twisted by self-loathing and a fetish for pirates. Arr.
  • by Shimmer ( 3036 ) <> on Friday December 09, 2005 @02:53PM (#14221792) Homepage Journal
    Except it's not really broadcasting and you don't have to use an iPod. In reality, "podcasting" is nothing more than listening to MP3s from an RSS feed.

    I think it's rather amusing to observe these people thinking that they've invented a new medium when it's really just a minor variation on plain old web browsing.
  • Re:Easy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bitspotter ( 455598 ) on Friday December 09, 2005 @03:14PM (#14222037) Journal
    You know, how hard is it to promote your domain name in the stream? Every streaming station I've ever heard may have lost the commercials, but they still plug the website every chance they get. "Podjackers" can jack the feed, sure - but the audio and video content are considerably more difficult to "jack".

    If users have it drilled into their head merciless that the feed can be had from a big bold link on the front page of that domain that guy's incessantly blathering, then when they lose the stream, they'll know exactly where to go - the source.

    Then again, I notice when my radio stream goes offline. I don't notice when a careless feed moves without telling me. It just disappears into the sea of other feed content. Guess you better make content good enough to be missed, huh?
  • Mod_rewrite? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tcdk ( 173945 ) on Friday December 09, 2005 @03:18PM (#14222082) Homepage Journal
    Wouldn't it be fairly easy to make a mod_rewrite rule, that would block the redirects or forward them to a sod-off.html page?

    I've made a few rewrite rules to avoid hotlinking of my images, and this seems possible to me.
  • by kuzb ( 724081 ) on Friday December 09, 2005 @03:22PM (#14222126)
    Why is any mention of podcasting immediatly associated with Apple? Editors, learn the language. Podcasting does not imply an Apple subject [] - quit categorizing it as such.
  • Re:Lesson (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Friday December 09, 2005 @09:03PM (#14225331) Journal
    All I wanna know is: If we're not supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?
  • by .com b4 .storm ( 581701 ) on Sunday December 11, 2005 @12:11AM (#14231549)

    I think it's rather amusing to observe these people thinking that they've invented a new medium when it's really just a minor variation on plain old web browsing.

    Yeah, just like the web was just a minor variation on plain old FTP. Gee, yeah, all they've done is make an existing form of information phenomenally accessible.

The last thing one knows in constructing a work is what to put first. -- Blaise Pascal