Locast Funding Effort on Slow Track

(Image credit: Locast)

The effort by TV signal streamer Locast to raise money to fight a lawsuit filed by the broadcast networks has so far raised only a fraction of its goal.

A gofundme.com page was launched Dec. 18 with the aim of raising $500,000 for a legal defense fund. Locast, which launched two years ago, streams TV station signals over the internet for free, but does not negotiate that carriage with network affiliates or pay them, as for-profit MVPDs must do.

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It is relying on a provision of the Copyright Act of 1976 (17 U.S.C. 111(a)(5)) that allows nonprofit translator services to rebroadcast local stations without receiving a copyright license from the broadcaster. That copyright carveout even allows it to collect a fee for its service so long as it only goes to cover the cost of operations.

At press time, and almost a month in, the gofundme page has only raised $10,948, and only about $1,000 in the past 10 days. Locast says it needs money if it is to continue to wage an expensive legal battle, with any surplus from the legal fund applied to Locast operating expenses.

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The broadcast networks say Locast is not like a translator service and should have to negotiate and pay for carriage. ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox sued the creators of Locast in July, claiming that the non-profit streaming service was helping AT&T’s DirecTV and Dish network by providing access to programming during retransmission consent fee disputes and blackouts. It was being billed as an alternative to DirecTV subs by AT&T. 

Locast responded by filing its own countersuit.

Locast founder David Goodfriend accentuates the positive and points out that the page is just one part of their fund-raising efforts.

"Locast is pleased that, with little outreach, we’ve raised thousands of dollars from viewers who want to protect their access to local TV channels through the internet," he told NextTV.

"The Locast GoFundMe page serves several purposes: to alert subscribers to our legal fight with the giant media conglomerates of NBC, CBS, FOX and Disney-owned ABC and to open the door for donations from non-subscribers and other enterprise sponsors who are frustrated by these greedy big networks that collect billions in fees for distributing local channels that are supposed to be free. The site has also surprisingly generated comments from viewers that reveal their frustrations with securing over-the-air signals and their disdain for being forced to purchase expensive cable and satellite TV bundles just to watch their local channels."

He points out that its viewer contributions can also go toward the legal fund. "The GoFundMe page is but one part of our fundraising efforts," he says.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.