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Locast is an American non-profit streaming television service that allows users to view live streams of over-the-air television stations. These signals are sourced from antennas in each market it serves. Founded by attorney David Goodfriend under the banner of the Sports Fans Coalition, Locast first launched in New York City in January 2018. The service is free, but requires a minimum donation of US$5 per month to view programming without interruption. The service is similar to Aereo, which operated on a commercial basis with users paying to lease individual antennas placed in nearby warehouses. Aereo was shut down following a copyright infringement lawsuit by the major networks over the retransmission of their programming without consent and compensation. Locast is intended as a test case for the proposition that a service of this nature would be legal if operated on a non-profit basis. Locast cites an exception in United States copyright law that allows retransmission of television signals by non-commercial entities at no charge, aside from that required to maintain the service's operations. (The exemption was originally intended to cover third-party translator stations owned by non-profits.) In July 2019, the parent companies of the four major U.S. broadcast networks sued Locast, alleging that the service violates copyright law. The plaintiffs also alleged that Locast undermined its non-profit status by accepting financial support and promotion from cable and satellite companies. The networks maintained that Locast gives the carriers an unfair negotiating advantage during carriage disputes that prevent them from retransmitting local programming. Locast filed a countersuit, arguing that its service complies with the aforementioned exceptions and accusing the networks of colluding to limit the availability of their programming via free-to-air means in order to protect the pay television industry.


Features


Locast is accessible via web browsers, Android and iOS apps, some set-top boxes, as well as Apple TV, Fire TV, Roku, and TiVo devices, and can be cast to larger screens using AirPlay and Google Cast. After registering, viewers are presented with a programming grid from which to select a channel. Programming is periodically interrupted to solicit for donations until one is made; the suggested minimum contribution is $5.00 plus a 50¢ processing fee per month. The service offers no recording features.


History


Goodfriend was a media legal adviser to an FCC commissioner and an executive at Dish Network. He conceived Locast while lecturing at Georgetown University Law Center on the demise of Aereo, which offered over-the-air television signals via streaming without negotiating with broadcasters for the privilege as required by the retransmission consent provision of the Cable Television Consumer Protection and Competition Act. Aereo attempted to justify its legality by means of its business model, under which users leased an individual antenna typically located in a nearby warehouse. After broadcasters sued, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2014 that the company had violated copyright law. Aereo declared bankruptcy shortly afterward. Goodfriend surmised that a non-profit organization would be exempt from the provision; Locast has become his proof of concept. "Locast" is a contraction of "local" and "broadcast". Goodfriend initially funded the service via a line of credit from an undisclosed entrepreneur. The site now solicits user donations. In January 2018, Locast went online in New York as a service of the Sports Fans Coalition, a non-profit advocacy group chaired by Goodfriend. The city's television stations were neither notified nor compensated. Broadcast signals are received by a four-foot antenna mounted on the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Manhattan. Locast has since expanded the service to other U.S. media markets, as well as Puerto Rico. Several television providers have directed subscribers to Locast as a way of maintaining access to programming during carriage disputes, such as Charter Communications during a January 2019 dispute with Tribune Media, and DirecTV in a July 2019 dispute affecting CBS-owned stations. Both AT&T and Dish Network have added Locast apps to their set-top boxes, including devices for DirecTV, AT&T U-Verse, and Dish via its Hopper set-top. By November 2020, viewer donations had offset expenses, sufficient to pay for operations and finance expansion into new markets. Capital costs for each location include leasing space for equipment, an antenna, servers and network services.


Legal challenge


In May 2019, ''New York Times'' reporter Edmund Lee wrote that Goodfriend's stated intention to quickly expand Locast nationwide "is basically a dare to the networks to take legal action against him. By giving away TV, Mr. Goodfriend is undercutting the licensing fees that major broadcasters charge the cable and satellite companies." In 2019, those fees exceeded $10 billion, according to the research firm Kagan S&P Global Market Intelligence, while adding about $12 to a monthly cable subscription fee. On July 31, 2019, The Walt Disney Company, CBS Corporation, NBCUniversal, and Fox Corporation – the respective parent companies of ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox – filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York seeking a permanent injunction against Locast for infringing the copyrights of their programming by retransmitting it without permission and compensation. The suit acknowledged that U.S. copyright law () allows non-profit organizations to freely retransmit programming, charging only for the costs of operations and maintenance of the equipment. (The exemption was intended to cover over-the-air translator stations.) The broadcasters maintained that Locast has undermined its non-profit status, citing Goodfriend's previous ties to Dish Network, a donation of $500,000 made by AT&T, and both companies' promotion of the Locast service as complementary to their pay television services to dodge retransmission fees. On September 27, 2019, Locast answered the claim and filed a countersuit citing the aforementioned exception. Locast argued that it does not obtain any "direct or indirect commercial advantage" from the service, and that the networks are "singtheir copyrights improperly to construct and protect a pay-TV model that forces consumers to forgo over-the-air programming or to pay cable, satellite, and online providers for access to programming that was intended to be free." Locast accused the networks of engaging in collusion to effectively require viewers to use pay television services, including intentionally using low-end equipment on station transmitters to provide signals inadequate for serving the entirety of their market, and forbidding affiliates from streaming their programming online. Locast considered these tactics a violation of the statutory mandate for broadcasters to operate in the public interest. Locast also accused the networks of "threatening business retaliation and baseless legal claims against any current or prospective donors, supporters, or business partners", specifically alleging that YouTube TV had been threatened in this manner. On October 25, 2019, the broadcasters filed a motion to dismiss Locast's antitrust claims, arguing that they were "an attempt to shift focus from Locast's wholesale infringement of the broadcast companies' copyrights". On March 30, 2020, the Electronic Frontier Foundation announced it was joining law firm Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe as defense co-counsel for Locast Goodfriend credited EFF, which is working pro bono, with eliminating what could have been Locast's single largest expenditure. In November 2020, Goodfriend guessed that the case could reach trial by mid-2021.


Availability


As of March 2021, the service was available to 168 million viewers in media markets representing 51 percent of the U.S. population, as well as across Puerto Rico.


References





See also


* LocalBTV


External links



Locast official site
at locast.org
Sports Fans Coalition
at sportsfans.org
17 U.S. Code § 111

American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. v. Goodfriend
{{CATV USA Category:Television websites Category:Internet television streaming services Category:Internet properties established in 2018