The track, which was also set to appear on “Suicide Squad: The Album”, was leaked online, first appearing on an anonymous Slovakian file-hosting service called Dropfile.to.
From there it’s claimed that the alleged leaker advertised that file on Reddit, posting a link which enabled any viewer to download it for free. The posting, which was made on the ‘Twenty One Pilots’ subreddit by a user called ‘twentyoneheathens’, caught the eye of Atlantic Records.
Earlier this month in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, Atlantic described how the leak had ruined its plans for the release and promotion of the track. Underlying these complaints was the belief that the leak originated close to home.
The label said it had provided an early release copy “to an extremely limited number of individuals”, including members of 21 Pilots, their manager, Atlantic and [record label] Fueled by Ramen executives, plus members of Atlantic’s radio field staff.
According to Atlantic, all of its employees who were aware of the impending release were “contractually obligated and/or under a fiduciary obligation” not to disclose its existence until June 24.
So, in order to find out who was responsible for the pre-release, Atlantic asked the Court to force Reddit to hand over the presumed leaker’s details, including his or her IP address. Reddit, however, doesn’t want to play ball.
In a response to the Court, Reddit’s legal team at Harris Beach PLLC say that Atlantic’s claims fail to reach the standards required for discovery.
“In order to obtain pre-action discovery, Atlantic must demonstrate now that it has meritorious claims against the Reddit user. However, Atlantic has failed to show that its claims are meritorious for two, simple reasons,” Reddit begins (pdf).
“First, it has failed to establish that it has a contractual relationship with the Reddit user. Second, it has failed to establish that it has a fiduciary relationship with the Reddit user. Because Atlantic has not demonstrated that it has meritorious causes of action against the unidentified Reddit user, its petition for pre-action discovery related to such user should be denied.”
The problem lies with Atlantic’s allegation that the person responsible for the leak and the link on Reddit is under contract with the company. Reddit’s lawyers point out that while the label is clear about what action it would take in that instance, it has made no statement detailing what it would do if the person who posted the link on Reddit is disconnected from the initial leak.
“Atlantic does not describe the claims it would bring against a non-employee Reddit user who discovered the link on Dropfile.to and posted it to Reddit.com without assistance from an Atlantic employee or an employee of Fueled by Ramen, the members of Twenty One Pilots, or their manager, each of whom had access to the song at the time of the leak,” Reddit writes.
Underlining its concerns, Reddit points out that Atlantic provides no proof to back up its claims that the “individual or individuals” who uploaded the file to Dropfile.to also posted the link to Reddit.
“[T]he Reddit user may have been a member of the general public, who, after discovering the Dropfile.to link on another publicly available website, decided to resubmit it to Reddit.com. A member of the public would not likely have a contractual relationship with Atlantic that was breached and Atlantic has not alleged as much.”
Furthermore, Reddit says Atlantic has not advised the Court of any efforts made to obtain the alleged poster’s details from Dropfile.to. While that might indeed be the case, the operator of Dropfile previously informed TorrentFreak that his site is completely anonymous and carries no logs, so identifying any user would be impossible.
In closing, Reddit describes Atlantic’s effort as an “impermissible fishing expedition” and asks for its petition for pre-action discovery to be denied. However, should the Court decide otherwise, Reddit has asked for a cap to be placed on the amount of data it must hand over.
“Presently, Atlantic’s subpoena requests not only information related to the user twentyoneheathens, but also for information related to ‘all and any other Reddit accounts which accessed [Reddit’s] service from the same IP address on or about June 15, 2016’,” Reddit notes.
“While such users may share an IP address, they otherwise have no relationship among them. For this reason, any order requiring pre-action discovery should be limited to information directly related to the user twentyoneheathens and not violate the privacy interests of any Reddit users sharing the IP address.”
While Reddit is digging in its heels now, it seems likely that at some point the Court will indeed order the alleged leaker’s IP address to be handed over. However, only time will tell what action Atlantic will publicly take. Leaks are potentially embarrassing, so making their findings widely known may not be a priority.