Locast, Despite Launching as a Nonprofit, Just Took a Major Hit in Court

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Sep. 5 2021, Published 9:04 a.m. ET

There's no shortage of paid streaming services that are available to consumers who love binge-watching themselves into oblivion. From Netflix, to Disney+ to Hulu, to HBO Max, and Amazon Prime with the zillions of paid add-on subscription channels, there are tons of options available to consumers.

But what about streaming free, over-the-air network channels? How does one go about that without paying for TV service. That's where Locast came in, and fans of the service want to know: Why did it stop working?

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Why did Locast stop working?

One would think that "free" TV stations, that primarily make a button of money off of advertising dollars, would be fair game when it comes to online streaming. If you're old enough to remember, the only thing one really needed in order to gain access to these stations was an antenna hooked up to a TV set. You can still use an antenna to view these channels, however, they look a lot different than the metal sticks your parents were pestering their siblings to point in the right direction during their favorite show.

Ever since January 1, 2011, digital antenna service was implemented all across the US, and users needed to update their antennas (if they haven't done so already) to view network TV, which primarily switched to DTV signals. But you need a specific type of antenna. FCC.Gov states, "To receive DTV signals from all stations in the area, your antenna needs to be able to receive both VHF channels (channels 2-13) and UHF channels (channels 14-36). Some antennas only provide good reception of VHF or UHF channels, but not both."

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why is locast not working
Source: Locast

But what about people who don't have antennas? Or access to a TV set that supports them? Then how do they watch free network TV stations? That's where Locast comes in. Through a variety of different applications available on tons of platforms, anyone wherever they were in the world (for the most part) as long as they had a strong enough internet connection, they were able to stream network TV channels using Locast.

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So why did the application stop working all of a sudden? Well, that's because the New York City-based app was sued by ABC, FOX, CBS, and NBC in July of 2019. Arstechnica reports: "The companies alleged that Locast 'must have a license to retransmit copyrighted television programming' even though the TV channels are available over the air for free. The lawsuit argued that Locast must 'secure the consent of the broadcasters to retransmit the broadcast signals' in the same manner as cable, satellite, and online video services."

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So how could networks sue Locast if they're essentially giving away their channels for free? That's what the company basically argued, stating that its service "qualified for a copyright-law exemption available to nonprofits."

Locast further argued, "The law enacted in 1976 allows secondary transmissions by nonprofit organizations if they receive no 'commercial advantage' and do not charge users anything more than what's 'necessary to defray the actual and reasonable costs of maintaining and operating the secondary transmission service.' Locast cites this exemption as the key to its argument that its service is legal."

Unfortunately for Locast viewers, the NY Southern District Court thought that because Locast would disperse pop-up ads urging users to donate so that they could expand their services into new markets thus disqualified them from the same laws that other nonprofits enjoy of utilizing copyright materials.

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This means that Roku, Android, iOS, and a variety of other users will no longer have access to Locast.

The free service said that they were ceasing operations after losing the lawsuit: "As a nonprofit, Locast was designed from the very beginning to operate in accordance with the strict letter of the law, but in response to the court's recent rulings, with which we respectfully disagree, we are hereby suspending operations, effective immediately," the organization wrote on its homepage.

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A large number of Locast users expressed their displeasure in the decision, and many are wondering if Locast will return or come back in the form of another app.

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Are you upset to see Locast go? Or are you just binge-watching The Office over and over again on Peacock?

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