×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Major Broadcasters Sue TV Streaming Nonprofit Locast

The four major broadcast networks have filed a lawsuit against Locast, a New York-based nonprofit that streams local broadcast programming over the internet. In their lawsuit, ABC, CBS, NBC Universal and Fox allege that Locast violates their copyrights by retransmitting their programming without permission and compensation, likening it to Aereo, the TV retransmission startup that shut down in 2014 as the result of a similar lawsuit.

The Wall Street Journal was first to report about the lawsuit Wednesday morning,

“Locast is simply Aereo 2.0, a business built on illegally using broadcaster content,” the lawsuit reads in part. “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.”

Locast responded to the lawsuit Wednesday morning with the following statement:

“Locast is an independent, non-profit organization that provides a public service retransmitting free over-the-air broadcasts. Its activities are expressly permitted under the Copyright Act. The fact that no broadcasters have previously filed suit for more than a year and a half suggests that they recognize this. We look forward to defending the claims — and the public’s right to receive transmissions broadcast over the airwaves — in the litigation.”

Locast launched in early 2018, and is being operated by the Sports Fan Coalition New York. The upstart has been arguing that it doesn’t need to pay retransmission fees to compensate broadcasters for their programming due to the fact that it doesn’t operate as a for-profit entity. The argument is based on a clause in the copyright act that allows retransmissions made by “a governmental body, or other nonprofit organization, without any purpose of direct or indirect commercial advantage” without licenses or retransmission payments.

Locast can be accessed in 13 metropolitan areas, including New York, Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. The service is available via mobile apps as well as on streaming devices like Roku and Fire TV. It frequently asks viewers for donations to cover its operating costs.

In addition to these individual donations, Locast has also gotten substantial support from some of the TV operators, including AT&T. The telco recently donated $500,000 to Locast, and also integrated Locast’s app into its set-top box.

The lawsuit alleges that operators like AT&T effectively use Locast as a pawn in their retransmission negotiations, and points out that the head of the Sports Fan Coalition David R. Goodfriend is a former Dish executive who went on to lobby for Dish on retransmission consent issues. The lawsuit also alleges that Locast was funded in part through a loan from an internet provider run by a former Dish executive.

“Locast not only is securing important commercial advantages for itself, (…) but it is also operating in collaboration with, and for the commercial benefit of, two companies that are among the largest pay-TV distributors in the country,” the lawsuit alleges.

A Dish spokesperson responded to these allegations by sending Variety the following statement:

“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.”

An AT&T spokesperson sent Variety this statement via email:

“Locast offers consumers an innovative new way to access free over-the-air signals. We support technologies that give consumers more choices and better access to this local content.”

The broadcasters are asking the court to shut down Locast, but the nonprofit is expected to fight back.

Aereo tried to justify its service by renting personal antennas to each and every subscriber, arguing that it was just facilitating personal space shifting of TV programming. The Aereo lawsuit went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which sided with the broadcasters, leading to the shut-down of the service in June of 2014. Aereo’s assets were later bought by TiVo.

Update: Updated with statements from Dish and AT&T.

Popular on Variety

More Biz

  • Harvey Weinstein

    Weinstein Can Get a Fair Trial in Manhattan, Says D.A.

    The Manhattan District Attorney’s office argued on Friday that Harvey Weinstein can get a fair trial in Manhattan, and blamed the producer’s defense team for much of the pre-trial publicity in the case. Weinstein’s attorneys have asked an appellate court to transfer the case — which is set to begin on Sept. 9 — to [...]

  • Leonardo DiCaprio Madonna

    Leonardo DiCaprio, Madonna Call for Action on Amazon Wildfires

    As wildfires rage at an alarming rate in Brazil’s Amazon rain forest, celebrities are using their platforms to bring awareness to the deforestation’s impact and to call for action. In the past week, stars like Leonardo DiCaprio, Madonna, Cara Delevingne and Ariana Grande have taken to Instagram to express their frustration with the lack of [...]

  • 'The Durrells' TV Show

    Greece Sweetens Production Incentives as Struggling Country's Economy Rebounds

    It’s taken the better part of a decade for Greece to show signs of recovery from the crippling crisis that almost pushed it out of the Eurozone. Now, with the economy slowly on the mend, the government is doubling down on efforts to jump-start the local film industry, giving a dramatic overhaul to the incentive [...]

  • Warner Music Group Partners With Audiomack

    Warner Music Group Partners With Audiomack

    Warner Music Group announced it has entered a partnership with the music streaming and discovery service Audiomack, marking the platform’s first licensing deal with a major label. According to the announcement, the two companies will work together on content concepts and explore ways to break emerging artists, connecting music fans with rising talent before they [...]

  • Scooter Braun Congratulates Taylor Swift on

    Scooter Braun Congratulates Taylor Swift on ‘Brilliant’ Album and Campaign

    Two days after Taylor Swift fired off the latest salvo in her battle with Scooter Braun, the manager congratulated the singer on the campaign around her “brilliant” new album, “Lover,” which arrived last night. The message came after Swift said she will be re-recording songs from her first six albums, which are now owned by [...]

  • David Koch Obit

    David Koch, Libertarian Activist and Billionaire Philanthropist, Dies at 79

    David Koch, brother of Charles Koch and one of the owners of Koch Industries, the second-largest private company in the U.S., has died at 79. According to the New York Times, Charles Koch announced the news of his brother’s death in a statement. Though he did not attribute to David’s death to a particular cause, [...]

  • Beverly Hills Realtor Accused of Stealing

    Beverly Hills Realtor Accused of Stealing From Usher, Adam Lambert

    A Beverly Hills real estate agent has been arrested on charges of stealing from the homes of celebrities, including Usher, Adam Lambert and “Real Housewives” star Dorit Kemsley. Jason Emil Yaselli, 32, is accused of encouraging an accomplice, Benjamin Ackerman, to enter homes during open houses in order to steal from them. Ackerman allegedly sold [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content