Movie companies have lost a third attempt to unmask Reddit users who posted comments discussing piracy. In an order on Wednesday, the US District Court for the Northern District of California rejected movie copyright holders' demand for seven years' worth of "IP address log information" on six Reddit users.
In a motion to compel that was filed last month, movie companies Voltage Holdings and Screen Media Ventures argued that "Reddit users do not have a recognized privacy interest in their IP addresses." But in Wednesday's ruling, US Magistrate Judge Thomas Hixson said, "The Court finds no reason to believe provision of an IP address is not unmasking subject to First Amendment scrutiny."
Voltage Holdings and Screen Media Ventures previously sued the Internet service provider Frontier Communications, alleging that it is liable for its users' copyright infringement. Seeking evidence for that case, the movie companies subpoenaed Reddit in an attempt to prove that Frontier has no meaningful policy for terminating repeat copyright infringers and that this lack of enforcement drew customers to Frontier's service.
"Reddit argues the Court should deny the motion because it is an unmasking subpoena, targeting a potential witness rather than a potential defendant, and is therefore subjected to First Amendment scrutiny," Hixson's order noted. Reddit also argued that the evidence sought by movie companies can be obtained instead from Frontier and from Frontier subscribers.