Reddit protected the anonymity of eight Reddit users in previous cases involving infringement discussions, citing their First Amendment rights. However, in the latest situation, six users who commented on Reddit posts between 2011 and 2018 are facing subpoenas for their account information.
Reddit is urging the court to safeguard the users’ identities. ISPs RCN and Grande, owned by Astound Broadband, are being sued for copyright infringement by movie studios such as Bodyguard Productions and Millennium.
Despite not being directly involved, Reddit received subpoenas for user data. The movie studios have filed petitions to compel Reddit to provide the requested information in the US District Court for the Northern District of California after Reddit declined to comply.
Plaintiffs Have Access to Information on 118 Users
Reddit argued that the motion to compel was unnecessary since the film studios already have identification details for 118 out of Grande’s “top 125 pirating IP addresses.” They recommended subpoenaing the 118 subscribers instead.
Reddit emphasized the higher standard required for identifying non-party witnesses and referred to a previously dismissed subpoena in the RCN case, where the court acknowledged the ISP’s role in monitoring customer behavior and addressing repeat infringers.
Comments Were Made in 2011 and 2018
The movie studios claimed that Reddit user comments demonstrate Grande’s inadequate protocol for addressing serial infringers, which is crucial for a safe harbor defense. They cited specific remarks, including a user thanking Grande for not “snitching” and another wanting to switch back to Grande after being disconnected by Spectrum.
Four users allegedly expressed a preference for Grande due to the ability to freely pirate copyrighted content. The studios also mentioned a user named “xBROKEx” admitting to downloading the pirated version of “Expendables,” but Reddit disputed this, stating that xBROKEx has not been charged with copyright infringement. The plaintiffs are seeking the subpoenaed information to support their claims in the Grande case.
Film Companies Seem Short on Evidence
The plaintiffs received identification information for 118 IP addresses from Grande but claimed the information sought from Reddit is unavailable elsewhere before the discovery cut-off. They had limited success in establishing dialogue with the subscribers through letters.
The comments in the Grande case directly refer to Defendant and mention using their service for piracy. The film companies’ copyright infringement lawsuit against Grande was filed in August 2021, with a scheduled jury trial in April 2024. Advance Publications, Reddit’s parent company, is the largest shareholder in Reddit.