Four of the biggest names in broadcast television — ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox — have filed a lawsuit against Locast, a small TV streaming service that broadcasts over-the-air local stations for free.
According to the , the TV networks have filed suit in federal court in an effort to shut down the service.
Locast is a free platform that retransmits the over-the-air broadcasts from the TV networks. Earlier this year, Locast founder David Goodfriend boasted that the service had more than 60,000 . It’s currenty available in 13 major cities, such as New York, San Fracisco, and Los Angeles.
The legal issue between Locast and the TV networks feels reminiscent of the one between the networks and a similar service, . In a case that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, Aereo was found to be breaching copyright laws with its subscription service that allowed users to pay a small monthly fee to lease an individual antennae and stream the over-the-air broadcast networks to the internet.
The difference between Aereo and Locast, however, is the latter is a nonprofit. Deeming itself as a “public service,” Locast’s position is that its nonprofit status allows it to retransmit the stations under the 1976 Copyright Act. The service runs on donations from its users.
“Locast is not the Robin Hood of television,” states the lawsuit, per the WSJ. “Instead Locast’s founding, funding and operations reveal its decidedly commercial purposes.”
The streaming service has been operating since January 2018 without issue from the broadcast networks. However, based on the lawsuit, it seems ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox are taking aim at Locast now based on the service’s connections with AT&T and Dish Network.
In May of this year, AT&T added Locast’s app to its DirecTV and U-verse set-top boxes. The company has also contributed $500,000 to Locast.
Former Dish executive Michael Kelly has donated nearly $800,000 to Locast through his firm. Dish also promotes the streaming service to its customers. In addition, Locast founder Goodfriend previously worked as a lobbyist for the company.
“Locast is simply Aereo 2.0, a business built on illegally using broadcaster content,” argue the networks in the lawsuit. “While it pretends to be a public service without any commercial purpose, Locast’s marketing and deep connections to AT&T and Dish make clear that it exists to serve its pay-tv patrons.”
In a statement to , Dish denies any connection to Locast.
“Dish has no more links to Locast than we do with over-the-air antennas, but we continue to believe consumers deserve a choice when it comes to how they receive their local broadcast channels, whether through satellite retransmission, over-the-air antennas or through other legal means,” says the statement.
Goodfriend launched Locast as part of a nonprofit group he previously set up to the NFL for blacking out local broadcasts of games. The FCC voted in 2014 to end the , leading to the NFL suspending its local blackout policy.
It doesn’t seem like Goodfriend will back down — this time defending Locast — from yet another broadcast fight.