The major broadcast networks have conspired to “fleece” the public by limiting access to over-the-air transmissions, streaming service Locast says in new court papers that accuse the broadcasters of abusing their copyrights and violating antitrust law.
Locast's claims come in response to a lawsuit filed this summer by CBS, ABC, Fox and NBC Universal. They alleged in a complaint brought in U.S. District Court for the Southern District that Locast's streaming service, which allows people to stream feeds of over-the-air broadcast signals, infringes copyright.
Locast counters that the broadcasters “have colluded and misused copyrights to expand their market power beyond what those copyrights were intended to protect."
The company adds: "The pay-TV providers get rich. Plaintiffs get rich. The public gets fleeced.”
Locast, created by the nonprofit Sports Fans Coalition, launched last year with broadcast feeds from 13 stations in the New York City area. The company since expanded to include feeds from Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Houston and Philadelphia.
Locast users can access streams through TiVo’s over-the-air set-top boxes, DirecTV, Apple iOS, AppleTV, Android, AndroidTV, Roku, Amazon Firestick, Hopper, and web browser platforms. Locast is free, but requests donations of at least $5 a month.
In a response filed late Thursday, Locast says the broadcasters' claims “are objectively baseless and constitute an unlawful sham.”
The streaming service adds that the Copyright Act specifically allows nonprofits to transmit copyrighted material for free.
Locast also claims that broadcasters have colluded to increase the costs of over-the-air programs by transmitting signals that are too weak to reach local television markets, effectively forcing people to pay fees for access.
“A significant portion of those fees are then paid to the broadcasters in the form of retransmission consent fees," Locast writes.
The networks alleged in their original complaint that Locast has “decidedly commercial purposes,” adding that the company received a $500,000 donation from AT&T, and that its founder, David Goodfriend, is a former Dish Network executive. The networks alleged that Locast helps Dish and AT&T in several ways, including by enabling them to “gain leverage in negotiations with broadcast stations.”
Earlier this year, AT&T directed customers to Locast during the blackout of CBS television stations.