Locast Shutting Down After Losing Court Battle With TV Networks

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The New York Times 02 September, 2021 - 03:54pm 36 views

Why was Locast shut down?

Locast, a nonprofit streaming service that piped local broadcast signals over the internet, is shutting down after a federal judge ruled against the organization in a rare case tackling the legality of network content delivered online. The New York TimesLocast Shutting Down After Losing Court Battle With TV Networks

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Twitch logo. Photo: Martin Bureau/AFP via Getty Images

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Read full article at The New York Times

Locast’s free TV service shuts down after losing copyright ruling [Updated]

Ars Technica 02 September, 2021 - 11:20pm

iPhone 13 could include this handy emergency feature

The MacRumors story on a report from top Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, further backed up by a Bloomberg report, caught Apple observers flat-footed. Most of us are accustomed to the standard suite of rumored camera and display upgrades. But LEO (low-Earth orbit) satellite communication is largely meant for off-the-grid dwellers, scientists, survivalists and journalists exploring remote parts of the world. Why would Apple, of all companies, be trying to compete in a space crowded by $800 feature phones with giant antennas?

According to Bloomberg, the iPhone 13's satellite capabilities are only meant for emergency calls and texts when a cell signal is not available. It's not clear exactly how this would work with carriers or other satellite companies, or if there would be an added associated cost. But the option could be handy. And whenever Apple does something, like removing the charger from the box, other phone makers tend to follow.

It should be noted that the feature might not actually be activated until next year. Per Bloomberg's Mark Gurman, while the hardware will be baked into the iPhone 13, the feature will need to be activated by a future software update, likely in 2022. The feature could also be dropped entirely. 

Before we get into the iPhone 13 potentially having satellite communication, let's break down what satellite phones are. 

Unlike the cell phones most of us tote around, satphones connect via orbiting satellites. This gives satphones distinct advantages over cellphones. Satphones can essentially connect from anywhere on Earth and are not reliant on cell towers. This can be handy not only when traversing the Gobi Desert, but during natural disasters that may knock out cell towers. 

Unlike cellphones, satphones are tied to a specific satellite company. The big ones are Iridium, Inmarsat and Globalstar. Each company has varying levels of coverage, depending on the number of satellites orbiting in its "constellations." For example, Iridium has 75 satellites at 780 km above Earth orbiting the globe, giving coverage to even the North Pole. Globalstar, has 48 satellites at 1,414km above Earth, meaning speeds will be slower than Iridium due to the longer distance. Globalstar's coverage isn't fully global either, but hits much of North and South America, Europe and northern Asia, Russia an Australia. 

Inmarsat has a completely different satellite system than Iridium and Globalstar. With only 13 satellites, Inmarsat has the fewest of the three. But the satellites orbit at 35,405km above Earth, giving each satellite a greater view of the planet. The satellites are also in geosynchronous orbit (GEO), meaning that the satellites follows the rotation of the Earth. Once someone locks in with an Inmarsat satellite, they're unlikely to lose their connection. But if there's a major obstruction, the Inmarsat satphone won't be able to as easily connect to another satellite, requiring the user to move to a location with a clearer line of sight. 

Given that the iPhone 13 does not have a giant antennae sticking out the top, the quality of any satellite coverage remains to be seen. But common sense dictates that it wouldn't be as good as a dedicated satellite phone. 

According to analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, Apple will reportedly use Globalstar's satellite constellation. So it will be able to make emergency calls and texts from much of the world, inclduing North and South America, Europe, northern Asia, the Koreas, Japan, parts of Russia and all of Australia. Unfortunately most of Africa, South and Southeast Asia and much of the northern hemispheres will have weak to no coverage.

The iPhone 13 will apparently use a modified Qualcomm X60 baseband chip. The quality of coverage is unknown at this time.

Call quality and coverage might also be hindered by the iPhone's lack of external antennae, although you could see companies making accessories to help boost signal. 

Satellite data speeds tend to be incredibly slow, so don't expect to watch Netflix in remote China. Actually, speeds are so slow that loading up a simple Word document might not be feasible. On the Globalstar GSP-1700 satellite phone, it offers speeds of 9.6 kbps. That's slower than dial-up. 

Satellite phone plans are not cheap. The cheapest plans can run at $35 a month, but only with 15 minutes of talk time in North America. Global plans can start at $52.95 a month, with only 10 minutes of talk time, with each additional minute costing a $1.29 more. There are also emergency plans that don't include minutes and only charge based on minutes used. But to keep the plan active, it may cost a few hundred dollars a year.

Some cell phone carriers automatically block phones from being able to call satellite phones unless the customer requests the block be removed. Calling a satellite phone is considered an international call, costing a few dollars per minute. 

How cell carriers will integrate iPhone 13's satellite system remains to be seen. It's not sure if all plans will include emergency satellite calls and texts, or if it would be something requiring an add-on. It's also unknown if all iPhone 13 models, or only the more premium editions, will include satellite calling. 

The potential inclusion of satellite connectivity in the iPhone 13 could effectively shift all phone development. According to Kuo, Apple is banking on LEO satellite connectivity as the future to help "provide innovative experiences." It's not sure what Kuo meant by this, but reports suggest that Apple has been tinkering away at mixed reality headsets, an Apple car and other IoT (internet of things) devices. 

In 2019, Bloomberg's Mark Gurman reported that Apple had hired a "top secret team" of software, hardware and aerospace engineers to innovate on satellite data transfer, with results being expected in five years. The status of what that team developed remains unknown. Granted, a company as large and cash-rich as Apple can easily hire engineers to noodle away at far-flung concepts with little chance of coming to market. 

And remember, according to Gurman's source, Apple may not even allow satellite connectivity to occur until next year or could drop the plan entirely. 

There's a chance that Apple is looking at Starlink, Elon Musk's satellite internet company, that plans to launch thousands of small LEO satellites to provide high speed internet to anyone around the world. Already, users in remote parts of America, Britain and Canada report that the experience has been lifechanging. 

If Apple does introduce satellite coverage with the iPhone 13, at the very least it will push other phone manufacturers into adding remote safety features as well. And if even one person lost in the woods is saved thanks to their iPhone 13's satellite connectivity, it would have been well worth the effort by Apple. 

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TV streaming service Locast suspends service after court ruling

The Verge 02 September, 2021 - 11:20pm

‘We are hereby suspending operations, effective immediately’

“As a non-profit, Locast was designed from the very beginning to operate in accordance with the strict letter of the law, but in response to the court’s recent rulings, with which we respectfully disagree, we are hereby suspending operations, effective immediately,” an email to Locast users sent out this morning reads.

Locast didn’t technically charge a fee, although it frequently interrupted its free streams to request that users sign up for recurring $5 donations to keep the service running. But ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC sued anyway, and it seems that the court has sided with the broadcasters, ruling earlier this week that Locast’s requests for donations exceeded “the actual and reasonable costs of maintaining and operating the service” and that it therefore didn’t meet the exception provided by copyright law.

Locast first responded by announcing on Wednesday evening it would simply remove the donation requests. “This means that anyone located in a market we serve who signs up for Locast will get the service without interruption, regardless of whether or not they donate,” the company said.

Today’s email, however, seems to have reversed that plan, with the service shutting down entirely. Locast has yet to announce what its plans for the future are or if the service will be returning in some form at a later date.

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Locast Shuts Down Free Online Access to TV Following Copyright Battle

Gizmodo 02 September, 2021 - 11:20pm

The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times reported that insiders at Renaissance Technologies agreed to the deal that could be one of the largest in U.S. history.

Among those in the settlement are Renaissance founder and prominent Democratic Party donor James Simon, and Robert Mercer, who was a major donor to former President Donald Trump’s campaign, according to the reports.

Renaissance had been locked in a yearslong dispute with the Internal Revenue Service after a Senate investigation determined that the firm used complex financial instruments to avoid paying nearly $7 billion in taxes.

The deal covers transactions between 2005 and 2015 and moves by the hedge fund to convert short-term trading gains into long-term profits, according to the reports.

Messages were left with Renaissance and the IRS seeking comment.

This Popular Streaming Service Is Being Cut Off "Effective Immediately"

Yahoo Lifestyle 02 September, 2021 - 11:20pm

Locast, a "not-for-profit service offering users access to broadcast television stations over the internet," has been suspended effective immediately following a lawsuit. The four biggest broadcast networks in the U.S.—ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox—all filed a lawsuit against Locast on the basis of copyright infringement, insisting the streaming service was stealing their programming, as Deadline reports.

Locast had positioned itself as a non-profit that didn't charge for its streaming service, which would allow low-income people who couldn't afford cable or other streaming subscriptions to gain access to TV. However, as The Hollywood Reporter explains, the service encouraged users to donate $5 a month to help keep the service running. They interrupted streaming every 15 minutes to show ads asking for donations, which was the basis of the broadcasters' case.

The U.S. District Court Judge Louis Stanton ruled that under the law, fundraising can only be used to help pay for the service, but can't be used to expand the non-profit into new markets. "Since portions of its user payments fund Locast's expansion, its charges exceed those 'necessary to defray the actual and reasonable costs of maintaining and operating the secondary transmission service,' which is the only exemption granted in Section 111 (a) (5)," the judge ruled.

Gerson Zweifach, counsel for ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox, told Deadline, "The federal court's ruling is a victory for copyright law, vindicating our claim that Locast is illegally infringing copyrights in broadcast television content in violation of federal law." The broadcasters will now seek a permanent injunction to suspend Locast's secondary streaming of the channels' programming for good.

On Aug. 2, Locast sent out an email to its users and posted a message on its homepage to alert consumers that the service was being suspended. "As a non-profit, Locast was designed from the very beginning to operate in accordance with the strict letter of the law, but in response to the court's recent rulings, with which we respectfully disagree, we are hereby suspending operations, effective immediately," the message read.

Locast shutting down will impact 55 percent of people in the U.S. across 36 local markets who use the service, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

While Locast's suspension is the most controversial, it isn't the only streaming service to be suspended recently. Over the past year, a handful of streaming services have been shut down. On Aug. 31, Disney announced that it would be shutting down its standalone Hotstar streaming service in the U.S. by the end of 2022, a service known for showing live cricket matches and various South Asian programs. T-Mobile also ended its TVision streaming service in late April and in Oct. 2020, Quibi, the short-form streaming platform for mobile devices, shut down just six months after launching.

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Free streaming service Locast suffers legal setback, suspends service - Triangle Business Journal

Triangle Business Journal 02 September, 2021 - 11:20pm

‘We are hereby suspending operations, effective immediately’

“As a non-profit, Locast was designed from the very beginning to operate in accordance with the strict letter of the law, but in response to the court’s recent rulings, with which we respectfully disagree, we are hereby suspending operations, effective immediately,” an email to Locast users sent out this morning reads.

Locast didn’t technically charge a fee, although it frequently interrupted its free streams to request that users sign up for recurring $5 donations to keep the service running. But ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC sued anyway, and it seems that the court has sided with the broadcasters, ruling earlier this week that Locast’s requests for donations exceeded “the actual and reasonable costs of maintaining and operating the service” and that it therefore didn’t meet the exception provided by copyright law.

Locast first responded by announcing on Wednesday evening it would simply remove the donation requests. “This means that anyone located in a market we serve who signs up for Locast will get the service without interruption, regardless of whether or not they donate,” the company said.

Today’s email, however, seems to have reversed that plan, with the service shutting down entirely. Locast has yet to announce what its plans for the future are or if the service will be returning in some form at a later date.

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Locast, the free local TV streaming service that expanded to Milwaukee in July, shuts down after losing a ruling in federal court

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 02 September, 2021 - 03:56pm

Milwaukee was the second market in Wisconsin for Locast. It began offering services in Madison in January.

While the service technically was free, Locast urged users to donate "as little as $5 a month" to help the service continue operations. Viewers got reminders every 15 minutes or so, and programming stopped until the viewer clicked on the button or refreshed the site. 

Late Wednesday, Locast said it would suspend program interruptions, in an apparent attempt to appease the federal court, according to a report by NextTV.com. But Thursday, the service announced on its website and on its social media accounts that it was shutting down immediately. 

According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which supported Locast in its lawsuit, the service had more than 3 million users nationwide. 

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