Locast, a nonprofit streaming service that provides local broadcast signals over the internet, is shutting down after a federal judge ruled against the organization in a rare case of legality. of network content delivered online.
The organization says it is “suspending operations, effective immediately,” and it added that Locast is meant to “operate according to the strict text of the law,” but must abide by a ruling it disagrees with. idea.
In many ways, the service is an odd bet on the nature of copyright law. It was started by a Washington attorney, David Goodfriend, who designed the platform specifically to challenge broadcasters. “Did you know you have to watch TV for free?” Goodfriend said in a 2019 interview.
The four major networks – NBC, CBS, ABC and Fox – are licensed by the US government for free to use the broadcast. But the companies also charge customers — on the order of as little as $12 a month — for so-called “retransmission approval fees” through their cable and satellite providers. Charges run into the billions of dollars a year for broadcasters.
Locast plans to appeal the ruling but it will effectively close.
“Locast has always been a public service for people who wanted to watch their local broadcasters, couldn’t watch them online, and couldn’t afford cable services,” said Mr. Goodfriend. , satellite or expensive service. a statement was provided to The Times. “Locast shows that millions of Americans fit that category. They deserve something better than the status quo.”
Mr. Goodfriend, who was involved in a real-life affair between David and Goliath, dared broadcasters to sue him to uphold the principles of copyright law. Locast was created to take advantage of provisions in the law that give people free access to network TV channels and include exemptions for nonprofits.
“We really did our homework,” Mr. Goodfriend said in 2019. “We are operating within parameters designed to comply with the law.”
The service looks for donations of $5 a month and regularly interrupts the flow to prompt users to contribute. About 3.2 million viewers have signed up for the service, but not all of those people have made a financial contribution. The service generated $4.3 million in revenue last year. The organization also provides complete access without asking for donations to approximately 50,000 economically disadvantaged people.
In 2019, four major networks got together and sued the service for violations. Locast filed the lawsuit on its own, claiming that the networks colluded in an attempt to disrupt the nonprofit’s business dealings.
Late Tuesday, Judge Louis L. Stanton of the Southern District of New York ruled against Locast, siding with broadcasters over a specific element of copyright law related to how copyrights should be used. donate and use charities.
The judge found that Locast was using the proceeds to expand its service to other cities, a move that, in his view, was against the law. The license key allows nonprofits to raise funds to “recover the actual and reasonable costs of maintaining and operating” the service. Locast is present in approximately 36 markets serving more than half of the US population.
In a joint statement, the networks called the judge’s ruling “a victory for copyright law, vindicating our claim that Locast is unlawfully infringing copyright on broadcast television content.” violate federal law.”
Locast’s appeal to the ruling will be heard by a panel of three judges in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. If the decision is reversed, it could provide a blueprint for other similarly designed services to operate.
Meanwhile, Locast fans cried.
“It is an absolute loss of composure that these companies are suing Locast,” said Cathy Gellis. on Twitter. “The only reason I’ve ever followed their affiliates is because of Locast. For them to sue Locast, thus saying they don’t want viewers, would be a shock to their advertisers. Because I don’t see their ads. “