Broadcasters Urge Judge To Throw Out Locast's Antitrust Claims

The major broadcast networks are asking a judge to dismiss antitrust claims against them raised by Locast, a streaming service that has been embroiled in litigation with the broadcasters since the summer.

“Locast’s various conspiracy theories do not state a legal claim,” CBS, ABC, Fox and NBC Universal write in papers filed Monday with U.S. District Court Judge Louis Stanton in New York.

“Locast’s counterclaims are nothing more than an attempt to shift focus from Locast’s wholesale infringement of the broadcast companies’ copyrights,” the companies add.

The new argument marks the latest development in a legal battle dating to July, when the broadcasters sued Locast over its service, which allows people to stream feeds of over-the-air broadcast signals.



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 has 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.

The broadcasters alleged in in their lawsuit that Locast infringes copyright by retransmitting programs without a license. The defunct company Aereo also attempted to retransmit over-the-air television online, but was shut down by a 2014 Supreme Court decision.

Locast contends that its service, unlike Aereo's, is protected by a provision in the Copyright Act that allows nonprofits to boost TV signals.

Locast also alleged in counterclaims filed last month that the broadcasters violated antitrust law by conspiring to transmit signals that are too weak to reach local television markets, effectively forcing people to pay fees for access. 

The broadcasters are arguing to Stanton that Locast's allegations are too vague to warrant further proceedings.

“In seeking to create its own lawsuit out of the copyright infringement action filed by the broadcast companies, Locast purports to take on the entire legal and business structure of pay-TV,” the broadcasters write. “In a pitch best made to Congress or the FCC ... Locast alleges that the broadcast companies conspired with one another to under-deliver on their obligations to deliver adequate free-to-air broadcast signals, all to create a foundation for pay-TV platforms that, under federal law, must pay for the right to retransmit copyrighted broadcast content.”

The broadcasters also argue that Locast shouldn't be able to proceed with its claims, because it can't show how it was injured by the broadcasters' alleged conspiracy.

“According to Locast’s own pleadings, it is not injured by the alleged signal strength conspiracy; rather, it is a beneficiary of that purported conspiracy,” the broadcasters write. “Indeed, according to Locast, the alleged deficiency in the broadcast companies’ broadcast signal is the entire reason Locast exists.”

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