Locast Shuts Down After Copyright Loss
Locast, a service that streamed local TV for free in about three dozen U.S. cities, is suspending operations after losses in court against the broadcast industry.
The owners of the country’s major broadcast TV networks — ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox — had sued Locast in 2019, saying Locast violated their copyrights, and asked for the service to be shut down.
Locast has held that because it is a nonprofit, it found a legal loophole in copyright law — it can stream the networks of ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox without paying them. The companies that own the networks make billions annually in fees from cable companies who pay to include them in TV packages.
But a federal judge in New York ruled on Tuesday that Locast isn’t protected by that exemption from copyright law. He said Locast is effectively charging users and using that money to expand its service, which he said isn’t allowed under the law.
While Locast is free, users who didn’t pay $5 a month would get an ad every 15 minutes asking for a donation.
The digital rights organization Electronic Frontier Foundation, which has defended Locast in court, said the judge “interpreted the law in an artificially narrow way” and that Locast was fulfilling Congress’ mission to make sure that Americans had access to their local broadcast stations.
Locast has been around for years but flew under the radar as new streaming services emerged that grabbed people’s attention. It had more than 3 million users, EFF said.
“As a nonprofit, Locast was designed from the very beginning to operate in accordance with the strict letter of the law, but in response to the court’s recent rulings, with which we respectfully disagree, we are hereby suspending operations, effective immediately, ” a press release Thursday from the company said.
The legal case will continue, including an appeal, to resolve the remaining issues, said EFF attorney Mitch Stoltz. He did not specify what those issues are.
The major broadcast networks are also available free in other ways, like with a TV antenna, which you can buy for under $10.
An attorney for the TV networks did not immediately respond.
Disney owns ABC, ViacomCBS owns CBS, Comcast’s NBCUniversal owns NBC and Fox Corp. owns Fox.