Reddit has won a court fight with 20 movie production companies, saving it from being compelled to disclose the IP addresses and personal information of users that engaged in discussions about downloading torrents.
The complainants alleged that the ISP — Grande — was ignoring piracy by its customers, thereby facilitating copyright infringement.
The Reddit users had published several posts about downloading torrents through Grande between 2011 and 2018.
Although torrents don’t always contain copyrighted material, they are often used to unlawfully distribute copies of movies, TV shows, games, and books.
“I have Grande. No issues with torrent or bandwidth caps,” one user wrote in 2011.
“Always thought it was pretty cool of them to not snitch,” another said in 2018, in response to an article in which Grande had criticised the music industry for trying to turn it into a “copyright cop”.
In its responding affidavit in the case, Reddit argued that the statute of limitations for copyright infringement in the US was three years.
However, the production companies maintained this was irrelevant to whether the posts could provide evidence in the case against Grande.
Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler found that the companies did not present a need for the users’ details to be disclosed that outweighed their right to anonymous speech under the US Constitution’s First Amendment.
The latest ruling comes after Beeler dismissed a similar lawsuit in which the companies attempted to force Reddit to share the information of a different set of users.
One factor that influenced her ruling was that Grande itself had already provided the details of 188 subscribers to the producers.
“As with the last subpoena, the plaintiffs have not shown that the identifying information is directly or materially relevant or unavailable from another source,” Beeler’s latest ruling stated.
“The plaintiffs already have 118 subscribers’ identifying information: they primarily resist serving those subscribers with subpoenas as burdensome and inconsistent with their August expert-disclosure deadline.
“They are the top pirating IP addresses, and they are from a more recent time period: it is not obvious why subpoenaing even a subset of those addresses would not yield information at least equivalent to, if not better than, information from the six Reddit subscribers.
“The information may be relevant, but it also is attenuated: it is, at best, weak evidence about Grande’s insufficient policy regarding repeat infringers or its appeal to pirating subscribers.”