Locast Court Appeal Seen Likely Even as Service Goes Dark
Streaming service Locast went dark Thursday following U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York finding it violated the copyright of local stations whose content it carried without consent. Locast ally Mitch Stoltz, Electronic Freedom Forum (EFF) senior staff attorney, told us an appeal is likely. See our bulletin on the latest move here and our report on the court ruling against the nonprofit service here.
Broadcast plaintiffs are urging the court to issue a permanent injunction. They said in a motion Wednesday (docket 19-cv-07136, in Pacer) they worked out an agreement with Locast in late 2019 that if the court determines its operators, David Goodfriend and his Sports Fans Coalition, don't qualify for an exemption from copyright law covering secondary transmissions of broadcast programming, the court should immediately enter an injunction prohibiting Goodfriend and SFC from operating the streaming service. Absent an injunction, the broadcasters stand to lose advertising and retransmission consent revenue, they said. Under the pact, Goodfriend and SFC can oppose the injunction, they said.
"As a non-profit, 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," Locast emailed subscribers Thursday morning. That came hours after it told subs it would continue operations but cease interrupting programming to ask people to become paid subscribers. Asked why the abrupt change, Stoltz didn't comment.
"The problem remains: broadcasters keep using copyright law to control where and how people can access the local TV that they're supposed to be getting for free," Stoltz emailed us. NAB emailed that it urges Locast "to permanently cease operations as its continued service plainly violates federal copyright law."
Locast has likely "pretty much given up," intellectual property distribution expert Charles Schreger, New York University adjunct assistant business professor, told us. He said the streamer was clearly violating broadcasters' copyrights and likened it to the defunct Aereo service, which the Supreme Court ruled in 2014 was violating copyright. He said he didn't see a way Locast could resume business legally without major retooling of its operations.
Whether Locast can come back in a legal fashion that doesn't violate copyright isn't clear, said broadcast and cable lawyer Scott Friedman of Cinnamon Mueller. Locast's interruption of programming "was always the weak link" in the argument that it was akin to a translator station, he said. Tweeted University of Colorado Law School clinical professor Blake Reid, "it's a bummer, but I don't think the court's ruling obviates the possibility that another service, more carefully constructed, could follow in its wake" under compulsory copyright law.