A third bid by film companies to access information from Reddit users is encountering resistance from the social media platform. The rightsholders, seeking comments for a lawsuit against an ISP, argue that disclosing IP addresses doesn’t violate anonymous speech rights. Reddit strongly disagrees and urges the court to reject the request, echoing its stance in previous instances.
Background: Reddit I, II, and III
Early last year, filmmakers sought Reddit’s cooperation in revealing user identities for comments related to piracy. Reddit objected, citing a violation of users’ right to anonymous speech. The California federal court sided with Reddit, emphasizing that filmmakers have alternative means to obtain the information.
Following two unsuccessful attempts, the rightsholders, represented by Attorney Kerry Culpepper, returned to court with a modified request. This time, it pertains to a lawsuit against Internet provider Frontier Communications.
IP Addresses & Anonymity
In essence, this case mirrors previous ones. Film companies, Voltage Holdings, and Screen Media Ventures aim to use Reddit comments as evidence against ISP Frontier. Reddit, once again, refuses to disclose information, arguing for the protection of users’ right to anonymous speech.
In their latest motion, rightsholders emphasize a new approach—seeking only IP address logs, not names or email addresses, to maintain commenters’ anonymity.
In response, Reddit contends that revealing IP addresses would still infringe on users’ right to anonymous speech. The platform argues that IP addresses, if not identifying information, hold no evidentiary value for the rightsholders.
- Reddit emphasizes the sensitivity of IP addresses, which can be used to obtain users’ personal information.
- Reddit questions the necessity of exposing IP addresses, given alternative methods available to the filmmakers.
Reddit points out that rightsholders already possess IP addresses of allegedly pirating Frontier subscribers, which can be used to obtain identities for questioning.
Reddit maintains that disclosing IP addresses adds nothing to publicly available comments and suggests filmmakers authenticate the posts without unmasking users. The court is set to decide whether Reddit must provide information after a forthcoming hearing.
In addition to the primary issue, film companies Killing Link Distribution, Family of the Year Productions, and Laundry Films seek to join the rightsholders’ motion.
Why are film companies seeking Reddit user information?
Film companies, Voltage Holdings and Screen Media Ventures want to use comments from Reddit users as evidence in a piracy lawsuit against Internet provider Frontier Communications.
What is Reddit’s objection?
Reddit argues that disclosing user information, specifically IP addresses, would violate users’ right to anonymous speech, a stance upheld in previous legal proceedings.
What is the new approach by rightsholders in their third attempt?
The rightsholders are now seeking only IP address logs, not names or email addresses, to address Reddit’s concerns about user anonymity.
Why does Reddit oppose the disclosure of IP addresses?
Reddit contends that IP addresses, even without user identities, are sensitive information that can be used to unveil personal details. The platform questions the necessity of this disclosure.
The ongoing legal battle between film companies and Reddit underscores the clash between the right to anonymous speech and the pursuit of evidence in piracy cases. As the court prepares to weigh the arguments in the upcoming hearing, the outcome will have implications for the balance between user privacy and the interests of rightsholders.
Additionally, with other film companies expressing interest in joining the motion, the case could set precedents for similar disputes involving online platforms and content creators.
A copy of Reddit’s opposition to the motion to compel, filed at the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, is available here (pdf)