Film Studios Strike Out a Third Time to Obtain Reddit User Information





Reddit once again protected the anonymity of the platform’s users after movie studios suing lost their third attempt to strong-arm the company into turning over user information.

Voltage Holdings and Screen Media Ventures have made several attempts to obtain seven years of IP address logs from the accounts of six Redditors who discussed piracy on the platform. On February 7, U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Hixson found no reason “to believe provision of an IP address is not unmasking subject to First Amendment scrutiny” and rejected the companies’ motion to compel filed in January. Hixson’s decision can be read here, provided by Bloomberg Law.

Since 2023, Voltage Holdings and Screen Media Ventures have pressed Reddit for the personal information and IP addresses of members advocating piracy on Frontier Communication’s network to use in an ongoing copyright infringement lawsuit. The users commented that they used Frontier for illegal downloads and received multiple warnings but took no further action. One user commented they received 44 warnings without consequence. 

The studios claim Frontier Communications has no “meaningful policy” to cancel services for customers found pirating content. On December 17, the companies filed to secure the records of those “who boasted” using Frontier to commit piracy. Reddit refused to comply with the order and said the lawsuit could proceed without the user logs and instead obtained from Frontier Communications.

Frontier Communications filed for bankruptcy on April 14, 2020. On December 1, 2023, the bankruptcy courts determined the studios established “good cause” to compel Frontier to disclose “infringing subscriber’s information,” meaning the subpoena to gather information from Reddit is a moot motion. 

Reddit has protected its users’ privacy each time the issue was raised in court. This time, the studios only sought the IP addresses, not the individuals’ names. Reddit appealed to the court to deny the motion, deeming it an “unmasking subpoena, targeting a potential witness rather than a potential defendant, and is therefore subjected to First Amendment scrutiny,” the appeal stated. 

With their third rejection to secure these records, the studios are running low on time. Voltage Holdings and Screen Venture Media have until June to finish discovery for the lawsuit against Frontier, which has already reorganized into a new fiber-focused company. The companies can turn their attempts to obtain the records from Frontier and appeal to the courts if the service provider fails to comply. 

But as the judge ruled, it’s unlikely the studios even needed the information from Reddit.

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