This week, major broadcasters including ABC, CBS, NBC, and FOX sued the upstart non-profit streaming service Locast.
Launched in January of 2018, Locast has been distributing live streams of local OTA broadcast networks over the internet (OTT) in 13 major US cities. Locast's existence is based on a legal loophole that permits non-profits to 'boost a local broadcast signal to those who cannot receive it' without paying fees to the networks.
And that legal argument seemed sound, which is likely why the major broadcasters have left Locast alone until now. But from the broadcasters' view, some recent marketing language and partnerships, as well as a giant 'donation' from AT&T, has put the company's non-profit status in question.
"Locast is not the Robin Hood of television; instead, Locast’s founding, funding, and operations reveal its decidedly commercial purposes," the suit states.
The pending legal battle is drawing comparisons to a previous suit that shut down Aereo, and for good reason. The lawyers representing both sides of this skirmish are the same lawyers as in the Aereo case. And the heart of the battle is still whether the 'little guy' owes re-transmission consent fees, an increasingly lucrative source of income for broadcasters.
Will this finally force copyright laws to be re-written for the digital streaming age? Or will Locast be relegated to the list of slain startups? Only time will tell.
In the meantime, Locast remains a legal option for viewing local broadcast networks in supported cities. And regardless of the outcome of the suit, viewing local networks with an Over-the-Air TV antenna and recording that content with a Tablo OTA DVR continues to be a fully legitimate option for all cord cutters.
We will continue to monitor this breaking news story and keep you updated with any relevant insight and information as we find it.
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