A guide to Reddit's r/piracy subreddit, and how the community discussion site is combating illegal sharing (2024)

Even if you've never used Reddit, you've no doubt heard of it; it's one of the largest sites in the US, and with more than 2 million "subreddits," it has a stunning depth and breadth of content.

With all that activity, it's not surprising that Reddit has become a hub for digital piracy, and the site has struggled with managing copyright violations for several years. A subreddit called r/piracy (all subreddits begin with an "r/") in particular has become the focus of some unwanted attention.


Reddit's piracy subreddit, explained

While other subreddits have occasionally shared copyrighted material, the r/piracy forum is, by design, for individuals interested in the tools, techniques, and resources of online piracy.

With more than 640,000 members, it was created in 2008 with the mission of being "a community dedicated to the discussion of digital piracy," according to its own description. That you can find discussions of the vulnerabilities of piracy laws on Reddit is unsurprising.

"Google 'reddit piracy' and you'll find lots of active links, where Reddit users openly discuss the weakness and vulnerabilities of various piracy laws," said Monica Eaton-Cardone, chief operating officer of Chargebacks911.

Given the subject matter, the piracy subreddit attempts to thread a particularly precarious needle. According to the rules of the subreddit, "submissions must be related to the discussion of digital piracy." The rules of the forum specifically prohibit activities like linking directly to pirated media, requesting activation keys, asking others to download pirated content, or asking how to pirate specific copyrighted works (though generalized conversations about pirating techniques are acceptable).

A guide to Reddit's r/piracy subreddit, and how the community discussion site is combating illegal sharing (1)

A scan of r/piracy reveals an active community (at any given time, there are more than 1,000 users online) with threads about a diverse range of topics, including tips and tutorials on using popular tools and utilities, troubleshooting tips ("why are my 4K movies purple?"), and news about sources for copyrighted content.

Unlike many online forums elsewhere on the internet, though, r/piracy is a moderated community (Reddit moderators are unpaid volunteers from the community) and the discourse is largely civil and on-topic.


The state of piracy on Reddit

Reddit has been attempting to address piracy on its platform for several years, with serious efforts to mitigate copyright infringement beginning around 2019. Eaton-Cardone said, "Reddit has banned some of the more blatant abusers — /r/NFLstreams, /r/NBAstreams, /r/soccerstreams, /r/UFCstreams, /r/WWEstreams — but Reddit is one of the largest sites in the world. Policing it is extraordinarily difficult."

Nir Kshetri, a professor at the Bryan School of Business and Economics, explained why Reddit was compelled to act: "When it was shut down, r/NBAstreams had 474,000 subscribers who could access pirated NBA content for free. The subreddit r/soccerstreams had more than 400,000 subscribers who had access to pirated soccer streams."

Rather than shutting down r/piracy outright, as happened with those other subreddits, Reddit decided in 2019 to delete all of r/piracy's posts and comments created prior to September 2018 — a decade's worth of content, erased from the Reddit archives.

In Reddit's transparency reporting, it's clear that the platform has been increasing its content monitoring exponentially. In 2018, Reddit received 9,534 copyright notices, which resulted in 26,234 content removals. In 2019, Reddit received 34,989 copyright notices, which resulted in 124,257 content removals — nearly five times that of the year before. In 2020, Reddit received 86,866 copyright notices and removed 375,774 pieces of content — three times as many as in 2019.

Based on the takedown requests — and actual takedowns — Reddit appears to have a piracy problem, and r/piracy moderators have existential concerns about the future of their subreddit. "We are now on thin ice," moderators wrote in one post, and added that the subreddit is in jeopardy. "We definitely do not want to be banned like r/megalinks, which was a subreddit specifically tailored to providing links to pirated content."


Cleansing Reddit won't eliminate piracy

Even if members appear to follow guidelines and avoid posting links to copyrighted material, some users say that the subreddit is still a direct vector to piracy.

Will Peach, a fourth-year medical student who regularly uses the r/piracy subreddit, said, "It happens via the backdoor. Recommendations are made in various threads and then DMs [direct messages] are sent privately. Piracy happens via other portals, like Google Drive. But it almost always starts on Reddit."

A guide to Reddit's r/piracy subreddit, and how the community discussion site is combating illegal sharing (2)

Reddit moderators appear to be enforcing guidelines in hopes of staving off a full shutdown of the r/piracy subreddit, yet they're also planning for the worst.

Allan Borch, founder of the tech marketing blog Dotcom Dollar, said, "[They] already have a list of forum replacements, including rival discussion site Raddle.me." Referring to the purge of posts older than 2018, Borsh added, "Indeed, those posts 10 years in the making aren't actually gone. They've already been archived on GitHub. Piracy might move away from Reddit, but that doesn't mean it's dead."

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Dave Johnson is a technology journalist who writes about consumer tech and how the industry is transforming the speculative world of science fiction into modern-day real life. Dave grew up in New Jersey before entering the Air Force to operate satellites, teach space operations, and do space launch planning. He then spent eight years as a content lead on the Windows team at Microsoft. As a photographer, Dave has photographed wolves in their natural environment; he's also a scuba instructor and co-host of several podcasts. Dave is the author of more than two dozen books and has contributed to many sites and publications including CNET, Forbes, PC World, How To Geek, and Insider.

A guide to Reddit's r/piracy subreddit, and how the community discussion site is combating illegal sharing (2024)


What is the main purpose of Reddit? ›

Reddit is a social news website and forum where content is socially curated and promoted by site members through voting. The site name is a play on the words "I read it."

What is Reddit used for most? ›

Basically, Reddit is about community, discussion, and good content. Find communities you enjoy, share great stuff, and enjoy interacting with those that share your interests.

Where do people pirate these days? ›

Piracy in the 21st century (commonly known as modern piracy) has taken place in a number of waters around the world, including the Gulf of Guinea, Strait of Malacca, Sulu and Celebes Seas, Indian Ocean, and Falcon Lake.

What is the Reddit app used for? ›

Reddit is a social news site where users create and share content.

Does Reddit have inappropriate content? ›

While there is some moderation on the app, the sheer volume of content means that almost anything can be found, including p*rnography, violent material, hate speech, and suicide tips.

Who is Reddit's target audience? ›

The average age of Reddit users is approximately 22-34 years old, with a majority being between 18 and 29 years old.

Who owns Reddit now? ›

Reddit was founded by University of Virginia roommates Steve Huffman and Alexis Ohanian, as well as Aaron Swartz, in 2005. Condé Nast Publications acquired the site in October 2006. In 2011, Reddit became an independent subsidiary of Condé Nast's parent company, Advance Publications.

What percent of us uses Reddit? ›

Around 572.5 million of Reddit unique visitors were from the US in February, accounting for 47.7% of all monthly unique visitors. Reddit's active user base is above 50 million in 3 other countries: India (58.9 million), UK (54.5 million), Canada (52.6 million).

Which country uses Reddit the most? ›

Reddit is one of the most popular online forums in the world, and people from all over the world access Reddit when they are looking for information. Reddit was created in the United States, so it should come as no surprise that the United States also has the most users.

Where are pirates most active today? ›

Nowadays, most pirate attacks are committed in the Singapore Straits and off the coast of Peru.

Do pirates still exist in 2024? ›

If you had a bingo card of economic risks for 2024, you almost certainly wouldn't have put piracy on there. Yet pirates—actual pirates—in the Red Sea are causing serious issues for global supply chains.

What country has most pirates? ›

Indonesia's 17,500 islands and their surrounding waters now take the title as the world's most heavily pirated.

What is third-party app Reddit? ›

On Android... 1st party = Google / manufacturer apps. 2nd party = preinstalled partner apps, e.g. Facebook, carrier apps. 3rd party = apps from other developers.

What is a third-party app? ›

Third-party applications are programs the mobile user has downloaded from the device's Play Store. These are unlike built-in apps that come preloaded on an Android device, such as the app you use to send texts or the one you use to call your friends.

Is Reddit use tracked? ›

I look at Reddit as completely trackable and public to everyone including the government. As it is a public forum, that is kind of the entire point of it. Reddit your conversations will literately show up on Google.

What are the features of Reddit? ›

Reddit gives users the ability to create private forums and to message each other directly. It also allows users to create individual avatars, which can be styled with various facial expressions, hairstyles, clothes, and accessories.

What information does Reddit collect about you? ›

Identifiers and account information, like your Reddit username, email address, phone number, IP address, and cookie information. Commercial information, including information about transactions you undertake with us.

Why was Reddit created? ›

The platform was initially created as a way for people to discover and share interesting web content. The founders' vision was to build a democratic platform where users could submit links and vote on them, determining which content rose to the top of the site's front page.

Is Reddit considered a forum? ›

Reddit is very much still a public internet forum, it isn't a social media platform like Facebook or Twitter. - It is a place to find information, how many times have you Googled something to find specific information about a topic and added "Reddit" on the end.

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