Suspected boss of online piracy site Kickass Torrents arrested

  • TECH
  • Thursday, 21 Jul 2016

Hear hear: An Australian judge has quashed DBC's request of a one-off licence fee for each uploader of the Dallas Buyers Club movie on torrent sites, saying it was "so surreal as not to be taken seriously".

WASHINGTON: The alleged boss of the world’s biggest online piracy site, Kickass Torrents, was hit with US criminal charges on July 20, accused of distributing over US$1bil (RM4.05bil) worth of illegally copied films, music and other content. 

The Justice Department unveiled a criminal complaint against Ukrainian national Artem Vaulin, 30, who was arrested in Poland and is wanted by the US for copyright infringement, money laundering and other charges. 

Vaulin is alleged to own Kickass Torrents or KAT, which in recent years has eclipsed Pirate Bay and others to become the world’s biggest source of pirated media. 

The US criminal complaint said the website offers “a sophisticated and user-friendly environment in which its users are able to search for and locate content” which is protected by copyright. 

KAT, which distributes films, video games, television programs, music and other electronic media, is estimated to be the 69th most frequently visited website on the Internet, according to a Justice Department statement. 

“Vaulin is charged with running today’s most visited illegal file-sharing website, responsible for unlawfully distributing well over US$1bil (RM4.05bil) of copyrighted materials,” said Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell. 

‘Run but cannot hide’ 

“In an effort to evade law enforcement, Vaulin allegedly relied on servers located in countries around the world and moved his domains due to repeated seizures and civil lawsuits. 

“His arrest in Poland, however, demonstrates again that cybercriminals can run, but they cannot hide from justice.” 

Polish border guard spokeswoman Agnieszka Golias told AFP on July 21 that Vaulin was arrested at Warsaw’s Chopin airport on July 20 “during an attempt to enter Poland”. 

US officials will seek to extradite Vaulin to face charges filed in a federal court in Chicago, which ordered the seizure of one bank account and seven domain names associated with the file-sharing website. 

The complaint said officials were able to track and identify Vaulin from records provided by Apple on his iCloud account. 

Service in 28 languages 

According to the complaint, KAT operates in 28 languages and has made available movies that were still in theatres along with other content, earning revenue from advertising throughout its site. 

The website’s value is estimated at more than US$54mil (RM218.56mil), with annual advertising revenue in the range of US$12.5mil (RM50.60mil) to US$22.3mil (RM90.25mil), according to the complaint. 

KAT has moved its domains several times after being blocked in Britain, Ireland, Italy, Denmark, Belgium and Malaysia, according to the complaint, and has relied on a network of computer servers located around the world, including in Chicago. 

Recently, the website allowed users to download illegal copies of recent hit movies such as Captain America: Civil War, Now You See Me 2, and Finding Dory

Vaulin, who used the screen name “tirm,” was involved in designing the original website and ran the site which has been operating since 2008 through a Ukrainian-based front company called Cryptoneat. 

According to the Justice Department, KAT’s website “purports to comply with the removal of copyrighted materials” but evidence showed it did not remove content requested by organizations such as the Motion Picture Association of America, the Recording Industry Association of America and Entertainment Software Association. 

The move comes with US officials in a long battle to extradite the head of Megaupload, another major piracy site shuttered by the FBI in 2012. 

The head of Megaupload, known by the pseudonym Kim Dotcom, is free on bail in New Zealand pending the extradition effort, and recently vowed to revive his operations. 

His extradition appeal is set to begin in the High Court in Auckland on Aug 29 and is expected to last four to eight weeks. 

Pirate Bay meanwhile has been able to keep operating despite jail sentences handed down in Sweden against its founders, and the seizure of its web domains. 

Authorities say they can seize or shut down illegal file-sharing sites but that the operators often reopen with servers in different jurisdictions. — AFP

Article type: metered
User Type: anonymous web
User Status:
Campaign ID: 1
Cxense type: free
User access status: 3

Did you find this article insightful?


Next In Tech News

IT loophole lets UK public book vaccine appointments - Evening Standard
Google asks U.S. judge to move states' antitrust lawsuit to California
Factbox: How Facebook, Twitter and others are girding for inauguration threats
Pinduoduo worker deaths reignite debate on 996 and the dark side of China tech’s overwork culture
Tencent seeks video breakthrough after US$240bil lite app hit
Marketing, sports data apps join fight against pandemic
World Wide Web inventor opposes Australia’s news payment plan
EU hails Biden's 'new dawn' but wants tough tech rules
ASML fourth-quarter results beat, sees outlook upside in 2021 depending on 'geopolitics'
Tencent’s WeChat doubled commerce on mini programs in 2020

Stories You'll Enjoy