March 5, 2024

Locast, a non-profit streaming service that broadcasts local radio signals over the Internet, is shut down after a federal judge ruled the organization on a rare case regarding the legality of network content served online.

The organization said it was “ceasing to operate immediately,” adding that Locast should “operate in accordance with the strict terms of the law” but had to abide by the decision it disagreed with.

The service was a dumb bet on the nature of copyright law in many ways. It was launched by a Washington attorney, David Goodfriend, who created the platform specifically to challenge broadcasters. “Do you know you should get TV for free?” Said Mr. Goodfriend in a 2019 interview.

The four major networks – NBC, CBS, ABC, and Fox – receive a free license to use the ether from the US government. But companies also charge customers – on the order of at least $ 12 a month – through their cable and satellite providers so-called “retransmission consent fees.” The broadcasters pay billions of dollars a year.

Locast plans to appeal the ruling, but it will effectively be closed for good.

“Locast has always been intended as a public service for people who want to watch their local television channels, can’t air them, and can’t afford expensive cable, satellite, or streaming services,” Goodfriend said in a statement sent to The Times was made available. “Locast has shown that millions of Americans fit into this category. You deserve better than the status quo. “

Mr. Goodfriend, who had himself embroiled in a real David versus Goliath affair, dared the broadcasters to sue him in order to strengthen the principles of copyright law. Locast was founded to take advantage of the legal provisions that allow people free access to network television shows and include exemptions for nonprofits.

“We really did our homework,” said Goodfriend in 2019. “We work under parameters that are in accordance with the law.”

The service is soliciting donations of $ 5 per month and from time to time pauses the stream to solicit a donation from users. About 3.2 million viewers signed up for the service, but not all of these people made financial contributions. The service generated $ 4.3 million in revenue last year. The organization also provides full access with no donation requests to around 50,000 people who have shown economic hardship.

In 2019, the four major networks joined forces and sued the service for infringement. Locast filed its own lawsuit, claiming the networks colluded to suppress the nonprofit’s business.

Late Tuesday, Judge Louis L. Stanton of the Southern District of New York ruled Locast, advocating broadcasters on a specific element of copyright related to how charitable offers can be solicited and used.

The judge found that Locast is using the proceeds to expand its service to other cities, a move he believes is against the law. The copyright code enables nonprofits to apply for funds to cover “the real and reasonable costs of maintaining and operating” the service. Locast was available in around 36 markets, serving just over half the US population.

In a joint statement, the broadcasters called the judge’s verdict “a win for copyright that justifies our claim that Locast is illegally infringing on television copyrights in violation of federal law.”

Locast’s appeal against the ruling will be heard by a three-judge panel before the second appellate court. If reversed, the decision could provide a blueprint for operating other similarly designed services.

Meanwhile, Locast Foul fans were crying.

“It is absolutely insane that these companies are suing Locast,” said Cathy Gellis on Twitter. “The only reason I ever look at their partners is thanks to Locast. If they sue Locast, saying they don’t want viewers, it should come as a shock to their advertisers. Because without Locast, I don’t look at your ads. “