Broadcast networks ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC are now set to get some money from Locast, which comes in addition to their win last month of a permanent injunction to prevent that service from restarting. As per Eriq Gardner of The Hollywood Reporter, Locast has now agreed to that injunction (declining to appeal), and they’ve been ordered to pay $32 million to the networks in statuatory damages. Gardner adds that the judgement there extends to those behind Locast, including founder David Goodfriend.
A case that began with hype that someone had finally cracked the code for delivering free and legal broadcast streaming is ending with a $32 million payment of copyright damages to ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC. After suspending its service following a devastating court loss, Locast has also now agreed to a permanent injunction, according to court papers filed on Thursday.
…Now, the injunction extends through settlement to those running Locast, including founder David Goodfriend, and includes a $32 million payment of statutory damages.
Locast started in 2019 as a free app (but one that solicited donations from users, and interrupted non-paying users’ streams every 15 minutes) streaming broadcast TV in several markets. It eventually expanded to cover 36 markets and 55 percent of the U.S. population. But the networks battled against it to defend their retransmission fee model. (While broadcast signals are available in local markets over the air with an antenna, those networks and affiliates make a lot of money charging cable, satellite, and streaming providers retransmission fees to include them in their packages, which is what leads to carriage disputes that see broadcast networks off different services when the sides can’t agree on a price.) If Locast had seen a court victory, that might have led to dramatic changes to the current TV model. But they didn’t, and that may mean that no one tries this particular strategy for at least a while.
An interesting element of this, though, is that as Gardner notes, there wasn’t actually a ruling on the question of if Locast had violated the networks’ copyrights. Instead, the ruling that shut them down was that they couldn’t claim a non-profit exemption to copyright while using the money they gained from viewers to expand into new markets, not just defray current costs. And a pre-trial agreement to an injunction meant that they had to shut down after losing on that front. So the local copyright arguments weren’t actually thoroughly resolved here. But the amount of statutory damages here, and the ruling against Locast’s non-profit approach to getting around copyright, may mean we don’t see another attempt along these lines any time soon.