While posting copyright infringing content is illegal, discussing digital piracy is not. However, despite this important distinction, r/Piracy, the largest subreddit dedicated to discussing the topic of digital piracy, has been pressured into deleting 10 years of historical posts by Reddit Legal.

The chain of events that ultimately led to these historical discussions being deleted started last month when Reddit Legal contacted the moderators of r/Piracy and said that the community was generating too many copyright infringement notices and would be banned if this problem wasn’t addressed.

The moderators of r/Privacy already have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to copyright infringement. Users who post links to allegedly infringing content or ask for links to allegedly infringing content face immediate suspension. This goes way beyond the requirements of the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act).

However, according to Torrent Freak, many of the copyright infringement notices mentioned by Reddit Legal were not legitimate and were being filed for:

  • Posting names of releases
  • Linking to an alleged pirate site homepage, even if the homepage doesn’t link to any infringing content

The moderators of r/Piracy are unable to review or respond to false copyright infringement notices. Only the user who receives the notice or Reddit admins can dispute it. This means false notices usually go unchallenged.

This created an impossible situation for the moderators of r/Piracy. Despite doing everything in their power to stamp out copyright infringement, false copyright infringement notices which they can’t control were still generating complaints from Reddit Legal.

As a solution, the moderators proposed “The Nuclear Option” – scrubbing everything from the subreddit that’s older than six months in order to remove any potentially infringing content, show Reddit Legal that they’re working to address the problem, and prevent the sub from being banned.

They asked users of the subreddit to vote on “The Nuclear Option” and the r/Piracy community voted in favor 10-1. This led to “The Nuclear Option” being enacted and all posts older than six months are now being deleted from the subreddit via a script.

While some moderators hope “The Nuclear Option” will prevent the r/Piracy subreddit from being banned, others are less confident. The moderator dysgraphical told Torrent Freak:

We have already seen this performed in other subreddits in which mod teams have bent over backwards to please the administration by implementing their own set of stringent rules. These communities no longer exist.

Ultimately, this reflects one of the major problems with online copyright laws – they’re often applied in an overly aggressive way and don’t leave any room for nuance. Talking about digital piracy is not illegal yet r/Piracy has been pressured into mass deleting 10 years worth of conversations on the topic due to a combination of false copyright claims and a small number of bad actors.

This year we’ve already seen a Jehova’s Witnesses group try to abuse copyright law to unmask a Reddit user, fake copyright claims being used to censor prominent YouTubers, and reputation management companies abusing copyright law to suppress legitimate reviews


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