Locast suspends operations
Locast announced Thursday morning that the service, which had been providing free streams of local broadcast signals, has halted operations in the wake of a court ruling handed down Tuesday (August 31) that favored the nation's major broadcasters.
Locast sent the following terse message to registered users this morning:
As a non-profit, 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.
Locast's website presented a similar message:
Locast, which claims to have more than 3 million registered users, has been asked for further comment. But the decision to suspend operations comes just days after a New York court ruled that the service does not qualify for a copyright exemption typically set aside for nonprofits. The ruling stemmed from a lawsuit led by ABC, CBS, Fox and NBCU over allegations that Locast was redistributing its local TV station signals without authorization and, therefore, was violating copyright law.
Judge Louis L. Stanton argued in the ruling that the Locast service sought charges that went beyond those "necessary to defray the actual and reasonable costs of maintaining and operating" its service, citing its use of funds to expand to multiple markets.
According to the court's partial summary judgment, Locast's total costs in 2020 were $2.43 million, and total revenues for 2020 were $4.51 million ($4.37 million from users and $147,161 from other sources).
Prior to the court ruling, Locast offered the service for free, but interrupted programming every 15 minutes with an ad requesting donations, starting at $5 per month. Locast users who made donations were able to view live TV programming without those interruptions.
Yesterday, in the wake of the court's decision, Locast stopped inserting those donation-seeking messages seemingly in an effort to remedy the court's objection by creating parity among viewers who donate and those who do not. Locast today went another step further and halted operations, and did not indicate when it might resume.
Following this week's court decision, Locast said it was exploring legal options to contest the ruling, but it has not yet elaborated on that plan.
Update: An attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a nonprofit organization that is helping Locast with its legal battle, emailed this comment: "Locast has decided to suspend its operations. The case will continue, likely including an appeal, to resolve the remaining issues in the case. The problem remains: broadcasters keep using copyright law to control where and how people can access the local TV that they're supposed to be getting for free."
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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading