Podcast Hijacker Says Business as Usual

George Lambert, creator of the RSS redirection service accused of holding a Podcast for ransom, says he was only requesting a fee for services that would have amounted to custom coding.

According to George Lambert, creator of the Podkey redirection service that allegedly hijacked a Podcast and held it for ransom, the alleged victim registered with his service to begin with and the "ransom" simply represents fees that would be required to do the custom coding the Podcaster has demanded.

The alleged victim, Podcaster Erik Marcus, recently found that Apple Computer Inc.s iTunes and Yahoo Inc. were using a URL and RSS feed that were not his in order to direct traffic to Marcus Podcast: Vegan.coms "Eriks Diner" show.

Yahoos Podcast page gives an RSS feed belonging, not to Vegan.com, but to Lamberts Podkeyword.com.

Marcus contacted Lambert to ask that his listing be removed. Lambert did so. This, however, caused Marcus listenership to crash by some 75 percent, he claimed. Marcus then asked that his listing temporarily be reinstated on Podkeyword while he worked to fix things with Apple Computer Inc.s iTunes.

Lambert responded that it would be reinstated only if Marcus provided an unspecified payment or agreed permanently to his terms—a description that sounds like hijacking and extortion and that has resulted in Lamberts being harassed around the clock by profane e-mail and phone calls.

However, as Lambert told Ziff Davis Internet News and also explained on a Podcast by David Lawrence, the request for reimbursement was simply to compensate him for the custom coding that Marcus reportedly demanded.

Specifically, Marcus reportedly requested that Lambert allow individuals to find his feed via keyword but not to allow OPML directories to have the feed any longer.

"He wanted me to make sure no other directory services got the information from me, but I cant tell who are directory services, because were not submitting anything," Lambert said. "People are coming to look at our list. I have a choice: I remove it from anywhere or I [dont] remove it. You cant restrict who comes to look at your Podcast. So his request wasnt technically practical.

"If you want me to come up with a solution, I can try, but thats consulting," he told Ziff Davis Internet News. "That doesnt fall within the bounds of a free service—one thats there to make peoples lives better. Is that extortion?"

"I met his [original] request immediately and without reservation," Lambert said. "I said Id reinstate it for free if he met my terms. If youre asking me to do something custom, you have to pay me to do [it]. Thats not unreasonable, and thats not extortion."

Lambert has posted on his Weblog what he claims is the complete, unedited e-mail conversation between himself and Marcus.

/zimages/2/28571.gifClick here to read about how Yahoos Podcast search operates.

Marcus referred questions to his lawyer, Colette Vogele. She said in an e-mail exchange that she was unsurprised that Lambert saw the facts differently, adding, "With many new technologies, different people see the facts in different ways."

Podcaster David Lawrence claims that Marcus, in fact, told him in a phone conversation that he couldnt remember whether he or his Webmaster had registered with Podkey—a lapse of memory that often afflicts Podcasters, Lambert said.

Could somebody else have registered Marcus keywords and RSS feed without his permission or knowledge? Its possible. As it stands, Podkey uses a Web form to allow Podcasters to register their keywords. Thus, the only way to determine if the people registering are who they say they are is to track back their IP addresses—not a routine practice for the service.

Lambert still might have been able to track it back, except that he deleted Marcus record after his first request to be de-listed, he said.

Following the brouhaha, Lambert has made it so that he can remove people from the indexes without deleting their contact information.

Next Page: Podcasters defend Podkeys service.