The Sports Fans Coalition is using a loophole in the Copyright Act to stream local TV channels to New Yorkers just in time for the NFL playoffs.
The coalition’s executives hope that the inevitable lawsuit will establish that streaming TV is no different than over-the-air broadcast TV.
SFC’s new service, locast.org, will relay signals from New York City’s local TV stations as well as the local affiliates of the big national networks. The SFC will apply geofencing technology to limit Locast access to the New York metropolitan area.
SFC chairman David Goodfriend explained that “Locast.org provides a solution where viewers can watch local broadcast stations online without paying an arm and a leg for it.”
The effort is part of the SFC’s mission to give sports fans “a seat at the table” when politicians make decisions affecting the sports they love.
To date, the SFC has focused on raising awareness of concussions and lobbying against taxpayer-funded stadium deals. The Locast effort takes the SFC in a new direction.
Send in the Lawyers
In an interview with Broadcasting Cable, Goodfriend explained the non-profit’s strategy.
The Copyright Act allows non-profits to rebroadcast TV transmissions as long as there is no “commercial advantage”. This is the way repeater towers extend local TV coverage.
The open question is whether the courts will treat Locast the same way as TV repeater towers.
“All this does is take the nonprofit structure reflected in that statue,” Goodfriend explained to Broadcasting Cable, “and do the same thing that a translator does, but doing it over the internet.”
Courts will have to decide whether or not Locast will face the same fate as Aereo.
Aereo, a now-defunct New York startup, provided an internet-connected TV antenna and DVR for each of its customers. Courts ruled that Aereo’s business model violated the copyright protections.