Reddit Sees Copyright Takedowns Peak While Subreddit Bans Drop

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Reddit's latest transparency report shows a modest increase in DMCA takedown notices. The number of copyright infringement-related user- and subreddit bans has declined, however. The latest data follows a hectic period at Reddit, where protests over an API policy change triggered a 'dramatic' 1169% increase in user data requests.

reddit-logoWith millions of daily users, Reddit is without a doubt one of the most visited sites on the Internet.

The community-oriented platform has “subreddits” dedicated to pretty much every topic one can think of, including several that are linked to online piracy and related issues.

A few years ago copyright holders paid little attention to these discussions. In 2017, the site removed ‘just’ 4,352 pieces of content in response to copyright holders’ complaints. Fast-forward to today, and the site removes well over a million items each year for the same reason.

Reddit celebrated its 18th anniversary this summer amidst a massive controversy over its decision to charge for API access. This triggered a subreddit blackout protest in which thousands of communities went private and some decided to throw in the towel for good.

These actions undoubtedly had an impact on the community, but most parts of the site continued to operate. Copyright complaints kept coming in and increased in volume compared to the same period last year, the site’s latest mid-year transparency report shows.

1169% Increase in User Access Requests

Before, going into the copyright infringement report it is worth pointing out a statistic that was directly triggered by the new API policy. User access requests, which allow users to ask for a copy of their account information, skyrocketed in the first half of 2023.

The number of access requests increased from 11,321 during the last six months of 2022, to 144,306 in the first six months of 2023. According to Reddit, much of that 1169.3% increase was the result of moderators asking subreddit members to flood Reddit with work.

“This dramatic surge in access requests was driven predominately by Redditor protests staged in response to Reddit’s API policy change,” Reddit writes in its transparency report.

“A number of moderators and users encouraged members of their communities to request their account information for user data mobility, and to create a compliance burden for Reddit.”

Copyright Takedown Notices Peak

There were no dramatic increases related to Reddit’s copyright policies. While the volume continued to rise slightly, all increases are in the single digits now.

During the first months of the year, copyright holders asked Reddit to remove a record-setting 949,208 pieces of content. This includes images and videos, along with links that point to infringing content shared elsewhere.

The majority of these flagged items, 71%, were eventually removed by Reddit. This means that 676,982 pieces of content were taken off the platform.

reddit notices

Compared to the second half of last year, there was a 2% increase in items reported, a new record for Reddit. However, the number of items removed actually dropped slightly, because the actionability rate decreased.

Snarking and Fair Use

In addition, there were also thousands of invalid takedown requests for which Reddit took no action. That includes cases of obvious fair use, URLs that failed to identify specific content, and instances where Reddit ruled that the reported content isn’t infringing.

no action reddit

One of the rejected notices was sent by someone who tried to have a post removed from a subreddit dedicated to “snarking” social media influencers. Apparently, the sender was the one being snarked, but since that’s not copyright infringement, Reddit left the post up.

“The reported content was a text post that criticized the reporter’s Instagram account. None of the reporter’s copyrighted works from their Instagram account appeared in the reported content, so we declined to process the notice,” Reddit explains.

User and Subreddit Bans

Links and posts are not the only things at risk; users and subreddits can also be banned for repeat copyright infringements. Over the past several years we have seen a clear increase in copyright-related bans, but that’s coming to a halt now, at least temporarily.

During the first half of 2023, Reddit permanently suspended the accounts of 221 users and banned 571 subreddits for excessive copyright violations. For comparison, during the same months last year, 3,859 users lost their accounts while 1,543 subreddits were banned.

These bans are in part the result of legal obligations. Under the DMCA, Reddit is required to implement a reasonable policy to deal with repeat copyright infringers on its platform.

According to Reddit, the sharp drop can in part be explained by the fact that the offending accounts and users were already booted from the platform due to other policy violations.

“The significant decrease in user and subreddit copyright bans occurred because many of these users and subreddits were already temporarily or permanently suspended for other content policy violations at the time of review.”

All in all, Reddit’s latest transparency report shows that while takedowns are still going up slightly, the tide may turn someday soon.


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