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EFF to defend Locast against bogus copyright infringement claims

Broadcasters are trying to get Locast shut down.
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The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is always looking for ways to put the fight to unethical company practices and it has announced that it is joining the legal fight to defend Sports Fans Coalition NY (SFCNY).

The EFF, a US-based digital rights group, has in this way lent its support to the SFCNY, described in the press release as a nonprofit organization that runs Locast.

Locast, in turn, is a local and free over-the-air TV streaming service in the US that, according to EFF, faces “bogus copyright infringement claims” by major broadcasters like ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox. At this point, the service reportedly has over one million users in 17 US metropolitan areas.

Locast is a terrestrial, non-profit service that claims it operates under an exception in US copyright law permitting retransmission of TV signals by non-commercial entities that don’t charge for their service, supporting itself financially through donations instead. Specifically, content protected by this exemption included news, foreign-language programs, and local sports.

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EFF, a San Francisco-based digital rights outfit, says that Locast allows TV audiences to view over-the-air content that is made accessible by law “for free—using set-top boxes, smartphones, or other devices of their choice.”

But this exemption was previously challenged in court by the four giant US broadcast networks – and it is this battle and legal copyright quandary that EFF is now joining on the side of Locast.

It wasn’t long into Locast’s existence before the four big broadcasters took note and files a lawsuit to shut it down – this happened in 2019, about a year and a half after the non-profit service first launched.

And now, the coronavirus pandemic angle was not lost on EFF’s Senior Staff Attorney Mitch Stoltz.

“Broadcast TV is a vital source of local news and cultural programming for millions of people, which matters now more than ever because of COVID-19,” Stoltz said.

Coronavirus or not – and indeed, the disease (COVID-19) that it causes – his next argument rings even more universal:

“Some broadcasters want to use copyright law to control when, where, and how people can receive their local TV broadcasts, and force people to buy expensive pay-TV services just to get their local news and sports.”

EFF’s big message here that it continues to assert that its involvement in the legal case is based on defending the non-profit’s right to stream local TV content, as allowed under US copyright law.

David Goodfriend, SFCNY chairman and Locast co-founder also mentioned the coronavirus crisis, as a time when Americans ought to have access to “emergency news and information from their local broadcasters” – and thanked EFF for its involvement on the non-profit’s behalf.

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