Despite the proliferation of streaming services, there’s still a market for broadcast television, as evidenced by the fact that cable packages remain a thing, albeit a diminished thing, and that there are ever more options that offer customers the channels they love served to them over the internet rather than through a cable box. Most are legitimate — YouTubeTV seems to have a healthy subscriber base, as does Sling and other competitors — but there has been a strain of fly-by-night options that can seem too good to be true, often because they flout the established rules regarding licensing and copyright and all the other hoops that mainstream services have to worry about.
One such service that has seemingly lost its bid to remain in operation was Locast, a non-profit streaming service that, per The Hollywood Reporter, is shutting down after losing a case brought by the big four of network broadcasting — ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox — on the grounds of copyright infringement. As opposed to the strategy of other rogue services that co-opted broadcast channels, which seemed to be ‘We’ll do this hoping we never get caught or noticed,’ Locast seemed to feel they had carved out a nice little grey area in the relevant copyright law; so long as they didn’t charge for their service and didn’t seek to bolster the company or its fortunes, they though they fell nicely into provided exemptions that would otherwise shut them down.
Unfortunately for Locast, that argument didn’t hold sway in court, as the broadcast networks argued that by allowing users to make monthly donations to keep the service going and using commercial breaks to ask for said donations like some sort of telethon violated the copyright rules that Locast believed it was in compliance with. The problem, according to the court, was that the money raised wasn’t just going towards the expense of keeping the proverbial lights on at Locast; it was being used to expand the service into new markets, which is a bit too ambitious for what the rules permit.
Interesting in THR’s reporting is the deal struck between Locast and the networks: the latter agreed not to seek “hefty financial damages” provided that Locast agree to an injunction in the event that a judge rule against their primary defense in the case. The judge sided with the networks, or rather against Locast, and at that point the writing was on the wall; while the service is currently suspended, it’s hard to see how they might get back up and running, at least in the way they were before, which is to say free. It’s a blow to those who may have come to enjoy the service without knowing or thinking about any legal implications, but ultimately as consumers you get what you pay for.