Gigi Sohn, former advisor to FCC chair Tom Wheeler and before that head of fair use advocates Public Knowledge, has joined Locast's board of directors.
Locast streams TV station signals online, using a copyright carveout to do so without having to seek permission from the station or pay a license fee, which Locast argues is essentially a "fair use" of the signals under the law, though the TV networks see it differently and last July sued to block the service. Locast has countersued.
Sohn is currently a distinguished fellow at Georgetown Law Institute for Technology, Law & Policy.
“I’m honored to join the Locast board,” said Sohn in a statement. “I’m inspired by small nonprofits like Locast overcoming enormous challenges to give consumers greater choice in how they watch their local TV channels.”
Locast said its "nonprofit public service" is now available in 17 cities and reaches more than 41 million viewers.
The service does not charge a fee, but asks for donations.
Locast has been relying on Title 17, Chapter 1, section 111 a)5 of the Copyright Act, which for those without a copy handy covers exemptions from exclusive rights to broadcast transmissions. That grants that exemption if "the secondary transmission is not made by a cable system but is made by a governmental body, or other nonprofit organization, without any purpose of direct or indirect commercial advantage, and without charge to the recipients of the secondary transmission other than assessments necessary to defray the actual and reasonable costs of maintaining and operating the secondary transmission service."
The service is geofenced, which means it is not available outside the relevant DMAs and thus does not run into contractual exclusivity issues.
With broadcasters finally spurred to legal action by the expansion of the service and its use as an alternative during recent retrans disputes, Locast will have to demonstrate that it is truly a nonprofit, that it gets no direct commercial advantage from the retransmissions, and that the statute indeed allows for retransmissions over the top in addition to over the air.
Sohn's 'enormous experience and knowledge of broadband policies will help guide Locast as we pursue our nonprofit mission," said Locast founder David Goodfriend.
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