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Movie studios lose bid to unmask Reddit customers who wrote feedback on piracy

Movie studios lose bid to unmask Reddit customers who wrote feedback on piracy

2023-05-02 08:25:23

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Reddit does not should determine eight nameless customers who wrote feedback in piracy-related threads, a decide within the US District Courtroom for the Northern District of California dominated on Friday. US Justice of the Peace Choose Laurel Beeler quashed a subpoena issued by movie studios in an order that agrees with Reddit that the First Modification protects the customers’ proper to talk anonymously on-line.

The First Modification proper to nameless speech will not be absolute, however the precedent adopted by US district courts solely forces disclosure of nameless customers’ identities “within the distinctive case the place the compelling want for the invention sought outweighs the First Modification rights of the nameless speaker,” Beeler famous. After reviewing the details and arguments, she discovered that the Reddit customers’ feedback have been irrelevant to the movie studios’ underlying case and that the studios might acquire related info from different sources.

Reddit has no involvement within the underlying case, which is a copyright lawsuit in a distinct federal court docket towards cable Web service supplier RCN. Bodyguard Productions, Millennium Media, and different movie firms sued RCN within the US District Courtroom in New Jersey over RCN clients’ alleged downloads of 34 movies comparable to Hellboy, Rambo: Final Blood, Tesla, and The Hitman’s Bodyguard.

In an try to show that RCN (now generally known as Astound Broadband) turned a blind eye to clients illegally downloading copyrighted motion pictures, the studios subpoenaed Reddit in search of figuring out info for particular customers who commented in piracy-related threads. Whereas a number of the feedback have been posted in 2022, different feedback have been made in 2009 and 2014.

Reddit sought to guard consumer privateness

The studios filed a motion to compel Reddit to answer the subpoena after Reddit refused to determine eight of the 9 customers. As Reddit pointed out in a submitting that accused the studios of spewing “nonsense,” a number of the commenters did not even point out RCN, and others merely “talk about[ed] points (comparable to their customer support expertise) unrelated to copyright infringement or Plaintiffs’ allegations.”

The plaintiffs, trying to show that RCN “ignores piracy on its community” and is thus chargeable for its customers’ copyright infringement, “subpoenaed non-party Reddit for figuring out info for eight Reddit customers’ accounts after which moved to compel Reddit’s compliance after Reddit objected,” Beeler wrote.

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“The customers at difficulty posted feedback over time that, in accordance with the plaintiffs, help the plaintiffs’ claims,” the ruling continued. “Reddit contends that there isn’t any want for the invention that outweighs the customers’ First Modification proper to talk anonymously on-line. The court docket denies the movement to compel and quashes the subpoena as a result of on this document, the First Modification bars the invention.”

As Reddit beforehand argued, “Courts have lengthy acknowledged that the First Modification protects on-line anonymity and have established a stringent normal to make use of in exactly this state of affairs, the place a litigant seeks to unmask customers for the aim of offering proof in litigation that doesn’t contain these customers… Plaintiffs are removed from assembly that strict normal right here.”

The movie studios claimed that “Reddit has not recognized any potential hurt to those customers by disclosing the data” and stated that they had no intention of “in search of to retaliate economically or formally towards these subscribers. Slightly, Plaintiffs simply want to talk about the feedback the subscribers made and use their feedback as proof that RCN displays and controls the conduct of its subscribers, RCN has no significant coverage for terminating repeat infringers, and this lax or no coverage was a draw for utilizing RCN’s service.”

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