Locast, the streaming service that offers live access to local broadcast channels, has been dealt an unfortunate blow in a copyright infringement lawsuit by the four major U.S. broadcast networks — ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox. Deadline reports that a judge has thrown out Locast’s claim that it is legally exempt from copyright infringement. The judge denied Locast’s motion for summary judgment, which would have kept it from going to trial against the broadcast networks.
This isn’t the end of the road for Locast, but it’s certainly not good since the next step is a trial against all four major broadcast networks in the U.S. Locast has been streaming local broadcast networks to its users, without permission from broadcasters, for several years by claiming it is protected by an old U.S. copyright law. The law states that a non-profit organization, which Locast is, may redistribute broadcast channels as long as the organization has physical over-the-air antennas in the areas that it services, which Locast does.
Locast debuted on Fire TV devices in early 2019 with support for 9 U.S. cities. That number has since increased to 36 cities and their surrounding neighborhoods. The Locast app streams channels for free but interupts the stream every 5-15 minutes with a request to donate. A donation of $5 or more per month removes the interuption entirely.
It is that recurring donation that allowed the judge to refuse Locast’s exemption claim, stating that Locast “made far more money from user charges than was necessary to defray its costs of maintaining and operating its service,” which is a requirement for the exemption. It probably didn’t help matters that Locast is, reportedly, partially backed by AT&T and Dish Network. Sling TV, which is owned by Dish Network, does not have a deal to stream the four major broadcast channels and, instead, integrates with Locast for those channels and pushes the service in the Sling TV app.
If you use Locast, enjoy it while you can. Given that it looks like the case is going to trial, the result probably isn’t going to be good for Locast or its customers.