The film industry is going after IPTV pirates, but an attempt to gather information on them through Reddit has hit a legal wall.
Twenty major studios requested user information for six Redditors who mentioned piracy on the forum in 2011 and 2018. On July 29, a California judge ruled that Reddit does not have to provide identifying information on the members and dismissed the subpoena.
“The issue is whether that discovery is permissible despite the users’ right to speak anonymously under the First Amendment,” said U.S. Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler. “The court denies the motion because the plaintiffs have not demonstrated a compelling need for the discovery that outweighs the users’ First Amendment right to anonymous speech.”
Reddit is entangled in an ongoing lawsuit the studios brought against Grande Communications Networks, an internet provider being sued over concerns customers are using its network for illegal IPTV streaming. The service, now known as Astound Broadband, is accused of ignoring torrents on its network despite 5,000 requests from studios to shutter illegal access. The company provided 118 of 125 IP addresses in May, most of which refused to respond before the August 7 deadline for collecting expert reports.
To strengthen the studios’ case, they subpoenaed Reddit to provide the names and IP addresses of six accounts that mentioned pirating content. The members commented they had no issues maxing out data caps or difficulties using torrents to access illegal IPTV streams on Grande Communications’ network.
Reddit declined, saying, “There is no need for the discovery that outweighs the users’ First Amendment right to speak anonymously online.”
This marks the second time this year Reddit has successfully protected the privacy of its users. In April, Judge Beeler dismissed another subpoena from studios citing first amendment protections after the platform declined to hand over eight users’ names and IP addresses.