After agreeing in early September to permanently shutter its streaming operation, the cord-cutting app and website Locast has agreed to pay copyright damages to the four broadcast networks totaling $32 million. Locast has also agreed to a permanent injunction.
When the app first launched two years ago, it began by saying that it was a nonprofit. They said they were only streaming a signal that was already available for free over the air. As a result, company management said, they were exempt from retransmission fees.
The broadcast networks — ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC — sued Locast in July 2019, saying Locast needed a retransmission license to stream their local affiliates. Locast countered, saying it was a nonprofit, and that they were only streaming a signal that was already available for free over the air.
In late August, a federal judge in New York looked at the way Locast raised funding, specifically by soliciting donations from users and interrupting programming every 15 minutes for non-paying viewers. The court also looked at where the money went.
According to the judge, the fundraising could only be used to defray the costs of operating the service as opposed to the expansion into new markets. By the time Locast shut down, it had expanded into 36 markets around the nation, serving 55 percent of the population of the country.
- Los Angeles
- New York
- Puerto Rico
- Rapid City
- San Francisco
- Sioux City
- Sioux Falls
- Tampa Bay
- Washington DC
- West Palm Beach
The federal judge had yet to rule whether or not Locast had violated copyright law. However, as a result of the earlier ruling, Locast was forced off the air, just before the start of the busy NFL and college football seasons, when millions of cord-cutters may have looked to Locast for local broadcasts of games.
The latest ruling now includes a $32 million payment of statutory damages.
Shortly after the streamer was forced off the air in September, broadcasters lauded the initial decision. FOX CEO Lachlan Murdoch danced on Locast’s grave.
“Clearly, the court loss for the rogue piracy business, Locast, was an important one for us,” Murdoch said. “We will always vigorously defend our intellectual property. And it’s just pleasing to see that a threat out there or someone who thought they could steal our content for free and subvert the business model of television, broadcast television in this country, it’s pleasing to see that threat has been averted.”
Locast is a live TV streaming service offering access to local TV affiliates in 36 markets. The service has been suspended because of a legal fight with broadcasters. Whether or not it returns, viewers have other options to watch local channels for free.
While the service could be used for free, users who didn’t pay for the membership tier would get a prompt to donate every 15 minutes. After the prompt, users were kicked back to the home screen and booted off the channel they were watching.
Locast could be viewed within Sling TV on select devices.