Locast Shuts Down After Copyright Loss

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. After a decision against it, Locast suspended operations on Thursday.

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.

Comments (3)

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BarryOB says:

September 2, 2021 at 4:17 pm

This is a loss for those of us who can’t receive OTA stations. I live in a dead zone so am unable to receive broadcast signals due to large building blocking Sutro Tower. I’ve tried various antennas, nothing works. Now instead of $5.50/mo I’m going to be paying $65 for YouTubeTV. Yes I’ll get more channels but was OK with Locast and streaming CBSN and NBC News Now. Locast was providing a service for those who don’t necessarily want cable and have OTA reception issues. Broadcast companies now depend on added revenue stream from cable and satellite and that is the problem.

RetiredInTexas says:

September 2, 2021 at 6:10 pm

This decision is very bad. I used Locast for my third and fourth TV’s. I’m already paying the corrupt thieves at Spectrum close to $200/ month for two set top boxes and internet. I never watch the movie channels like HBO, nothing but crap on there. Most of my viewing is MeTV and CNBC. MeTV isn’t on and streaming services. And as far as I can see the loss is the networks. I’m not seeing their ads. Don’t tell me about antennas. They aren’t $10 and indoor ones do not work at all. So I was seeing the ads, now I’m not. Just because Nexstar, NBC, and the rest aren’t extorting more out of the cable companies we have a loss. Even when I worked for LIN I didn’t get the whole retrans thing. The broadcasters should be happy the cable companies are carrying them. And the cable guys shouldn’t be so greedy. Drop the price and nuke HBO, etc and all the sports crap. Then people can afford it and they’ll have more subs.

CommonSensei says:

September 3, 2021 at 8:15 am

I’ve been following this story for awhile now and this always seemed like the eventual outcome. It doesn’t matter how many people were using it, how much they liked it, or what a great idea it was. Locast could never prove that it wasn’t illegal. The only way to change that is to change the laws. The comments I see are saying it was a bad decision. Just because it wasn’t the decision you wanted, doesn’t make it bad. Locast themselves put in their latest statement that they were trying to stick to the letter of the law. Why do you put that unless you know that you are doing something that you are trying to get away with?! There are plenty of non-profits out there. I don’t see them issuing statements about how they are trying to ” operate in accordance with the strict letter of the law”. This is not evil empires stomping out the little guy. This is Locast trying to live in a loophole and make millions – which they did – till someone stops them – which they did.

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