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Lawsuit From Major TV Networks Aims to Shut Down Locast, Claims the Service Violates Copyright Law

Stephanie Sengwe

Locast, a nonprofit streaming service funded in part by AT&T Inc. and founded by a Dish Network Corp. lobbyist, is currently under major fire as CBS, ABC, NBC and Fox have all filed a lawsuit to shut it down, the Wall Street Journal reports. The networks claim that the service is violating copyright law by retransmitting signals of their local TV stations without permission. The networks also claim that should Locast gain popularity, it could cut into the revenue stream broadcasters receive from pay TV distributors.

The networks also argue that when Locast retransmits their signals it strips out vital information including Nielsen codes that are used to measure ratings. In addition, CBS, ABC, NBC and Fox also argue 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.

On the other hand, Locast is arguing that it is well within the 1976 Copyright Act, which allows for nonprofits to operate so-called booster and translator stations that strengthen a TV station’s signal to reach antennas that otherwise wouldn’t receive the channel. The lawyer for Locast also points out the fact that “have been aware of Locast’s activities for around a year and a half and have never made any claims,” the Journal reports.

While the service relies on donations from users, they recently received a $500,000 contribution from AT&T and another $800,000 from IOT Broadband LLC, a firm owned by former Dish executive Michael Kelly. To date, Locast says it has signed up more than 250,000 users and while it’s not yet available nationwide, it is present in many of the country’s largest TV markets and reaches more than 30 million households.

With more network blackouts occurring now more than ever, some of which involve Dish and CBS, this lawsuit couldn’t have come at a more pertinent time.