Reddit has protected its users from losing their anonymity after film companies tried to squeeze identifiable information from Redditors involved in piracy discussions on its platform.

Last week, the US District Court for the Northern District of California quashed a subpoena from big film companies trying to get names, email addresses and other identifiable information from Reddit users.

The plaintiffs – a collection of 20 movie producers including Rambo V Productions and Dallas Buyers Club LLC – were after the identities of multiple users who had discussed piracy on popular discussions site Reddit.

They were seeking this information in a long-running case against internet service provider Grande, which plaintiffs argued “ignores piracy on its networks” and is liable for infringement of copyrights made by its subscribers.

While Reddit isn’t directly involved in the case, plaintiffs served the discussion-forum giant a subpoena arguing requested evidence, including identifiable information from Reddit users, was “clearly relevant” to the case.

The film companies were seeking to unmask six anonymous Reddit users who left comments dating back to 2011 and 2018 by requesting "basic account information including IP address registration and logs” as well as “name, email address and other account registration information".

Reddit countered that the film companies’ demands would violate its users’ First Amendment rights — to which the court agreed.

“The issue is whether that discovery is permissible despite the users’ right to speak anonymously under the First Amendment,” said US 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.”

The plaintiffs own copyrights to forty-five motion pictures, which they allege Grande’s subscribers pirate on a massive scale.

Furthermore, the film copyright holders alleged many of Grande’s subscribers are motivated to use the ISP because “it allows them to download movies and other copyrighted content – including unauthorised content – as efficiently as possible”.

During proceedings, the plaintiffs went as far as to cite specific comments from ludicrously-named Reddit users which they posed as evidence relevant to the case.

“I have Grande and torrent a lot. Always thought it was pretty cool of them to not snitch,” reads a cited comment from user roboweiner.

“Like everyone else I miss Grande and I’m stuck with Spectrum or AT&T in my area. I use Spectrum. Those ***** have turned my connection off completely on one occasion and would not turn it back on until I agreed to stop pirating media,” a cited comment from user SquirtyBottoms.

Beeler also noted the court had denied “a nearly identical motion” from the same plaintiffs regarding different Reddit users only weeks prior.

In June, Reddit faced mass-backlash from its users after it announced controversial pricing changes to its API.

By disputing these big movie producers’ attempt at grabbing users’ identifiable details, Reddit has earned some much-needed favour from its userbase.

“A rare instance where Reddit comes through for its users,” said user That2Things.

While citing a prior case, Reddit pointed out litigation can often continue without “trampling a non-party witness’s First Amendment right to anonymity”.

In its filing, Reddit further argued targeted accounts were irrelevant to the underlying investigation – noting the type of unmasking subpoena at play was targeting a “potential witness” rather than a potential defendant.

Finally, the company pointed out the statute of limitations for copyright infringement is three years – well beyond the point cited comments were originally made on its platform.