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Locast Suspends Free Live TV Access Following Court Ruling

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Locast has suspended operations and shut down access to its local live TV service following a recent court ruling. As a result, those that were using Locast to access their local live TV channels will no longer be able to. The ruling comes as part of an ongoing court case over whether Locast has the right to provide the service it does to consumers.

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Locast provided free access to local live TV channels over the internet. The service first started operating in 2018, but was only available in New York City. Since then, Locast has gradually expanded to new cities and locations across the U.S offering more consumers the option to access their local channels without a traditional live TV package.

However, Locast has now suspended operations, effectively immediately, as a result of recent court rulings. The statement on the website states Locast disagrees with the court rulings, but did not explain whether there were plans to restart operations in the near or long-term future. Users of the service have also now started receiving emails confirming the shutting down of the service.

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The change already appears to have taken effect at the website level with Locast no longer listing the cities the service is available in. Likewise, the website’s live TV guide also no longer displays any listings. In a separate response statement on the website, Locast explained the news of the ruling was “disappointing” with Locast’s attorney R. David Hosp, Partner Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe adding that Locast “remains committed to its mission” of offering free local live TV to Americans.

The ruling is part of a lawsuit which dates back to 2019. Filed by the parent companies of ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC, the lawsuit alleges that Locast was illegally providing access to copyrighted content. In other words, Locast did not have permission to retransmit the local channels it was. In response, Locast has always argued that it is a consumer right to have access to these channels and that its nonprofit status allowed an exemption from copyright law.

However, U.S. District Judge Louis Stanton disagreed with Locast’s defense highlighting Locast’s use of donations as a major reason. Locast not only sought donations from members of the public but also regularly interrupted live broadcasts to display a donation request message to users of the service that weren’t donating.

While these monthly recurring donations were understood to be used for operations, the ruling points to the amount accumulated through donations being much higher than what was actually used for operations. In addition, the use of the requirement of a donation for uninterrupted viewing effectively amounted to a fee for the service. The ruling essentially suggested that Locast couldn’t be classified as a ‘service without charge’ negating its Copyright Act exemption defense.

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Locast did respond yesterday by removing the donation requirement for interruption-free viewing, but that decision has now been replaced by the shutting down of the service completely. Whether Locast restarts again in the future currently remains to be seen and will likely depend on whether the court battle continues.

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John Finn

By John Finn

John started Streaming Better to help consumers navigate the live TV streaming and subscription service landscape. John has been writing about technology and TV-related services and devices since 2014 and believes the best streaming approach is to bounce between services as needed. Contact John via email at john@streamingbetter.com or on Twitter

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