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EFF Comes to Locast’s Defense in Lawsuit By ABC, CBS, NBC, & FOX

Jason Gurwin

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has joined the defense team of Locast, a nonprofit streaming service founded by former Dish Network Corp. lobbyist, David Goodfriend and funded in part by AT&T, Inc.

Locast enables TV viewers to receive local over-the-air programming from ABC, NBC, FOX, CBS, and other OTA channels through streaming players, mobile, and tablet devices. The service is free to use, but you will be nagged with a message every 15 minutes without a $5 a month donation.

The service has been in some legal hot waters however, with ABC, NBC, Fox and CBS filing a violation of copyright lawsuit against them. The networks argued that when Locast retransmits their signals it strips out vital information including Nielsen codes that are used to measure ratings. In addition, the networks also argued that if Locast, is truly a nonprofit, and not a pawn for AT&T and Dish, then there is no reason to require registration or gather its own consumer data—both of which Locast currently does.

EFF joins the case as co-counsel alongside law firm Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe. EFF has a long history fighting copyright abuse and defending innovation that benefits the public. Broadcast giants, which already reap billions from charging users for programming, are attempting to use their copyrights to maintain market power and force consumers to pay for programming that’s supposed to be free.

“Broadcast TV is a vital source of local news and cultural programming for millions of people which matters now more than ever because of COVID-19,” said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Mitch Stoltz. “But some broadcasters want to use copyright law to control when, where, and how people can receive their local TV broadcasts, and force people to buy expensive pay-TV services just to get their local news and sports.”

Not to be intimidated, Locast countersued the networks, accusing the ABC, NBC, Fox and CBS of collusion. Locast claimed the networks interfered in a potential partnership with YouTube TV by disallowing it to provide access or Google would be “punished by the big four broadcasters.” The broadcasters—which own cable channels such as ESPN, Bravo, Fox News, and Showtime could band together and pressure Google as well as other pay-TV operators by refusing to sell their cable channels, Locast suggested.

“I am grateful beyond words to EFF for representing our non-profit and the consumers who rely on Locast,” said SFCNY Chairman and Locast founder David Goodfriend. “Especially during the COVID-19 crisis, when Americans need emergency news and information from their local broadcasters, and when so many of our fellow Americans are suffering economically, Locast provides a critical public service.”

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