Broadcasting & Cable’s John Eggerton, the hardest working man in Washington, revealed some huge news yesterday morning. A nonprofit organization has launched Locast, a service that streams 14 New York City broadcast stations, including the major networks.
David Goodfriend, chairman of the Sports Fans Coalition, told Eggerton that the group is relying on a chunk of the 1976 Copyright Act that allows non-profits to retransmit broadcast signals. It’s what allows broadcast TV translator stations to exist.
Goodfriend said, “All this does is take the nonprofit structure reflected in that statute and do the same thing that a translator does, but doing it over the internet and making sure the signal is only available in New York DMA. Broadcasters are supposed to make it available to everybody for free. You can stick an antenna out the window or you can stream on locast.org. They both have the same effect.”
Yes, similar to the situation with Didja’s commercial offerings in Phoenix and the San Francisco Bay Area, these stations are only available to devices that can show that they are within the New York City market, if you know what I mean.
Eggerton pointed out the parallels to Aereo and FilmOn, (and he also could have mentioned ivi.tv), commercial services that failed to sustain such rebroadcasting after getting slapped around in court. The piece of history I find a lot more interesting was prompted by Cablevision, of all people.
In late October 2010, locked in an ugly retransmission battle with the local Fox station, Cablevision issued an amazing press release (still available online) that quoted the same piece of law that Goodfriend mentioned. It wrote, “Under the clear language of this statutory exemption, a governmental entity or non-profit entity could, for the purpose of serving the public interest, retransmit the World Series free over the Internet. With a simple antenna and Internet streaming capacity, a governmental entity or non-profit organization could do a tremendous public service and extend the reach of this broadcast programming – just as Congress intended”.
Goodfriend, who was vice president of law and public policy for Dish Network for seven years, told Eggerton that Locast was getting some initial startup funding from an unnamed “high net worth individual.” It sounds like he’s fully aware of the funding his legal team is going to need, noting “We’re going to give it a shot and we’re going to get sued.”
There is much, much more to Eggerton’s story, so you really should go read it! And I sincerely hope that Locast prevails in court so it can help our nation’s broadcast stations better fulfill their obligation to serve the public.