Kickass Torrents in international piracy sting
The US justice department is chasing down one of the world’s biggest online piracy operations as it launches a criminal complaint against a Ukrainian man alleged to be the ringleader of content-sharing website Kickass Torrents.
Artem Vaulin, 30, of Kharkiv, Ukraine has been accused of distributing more than $1 billion-worth of illegally copied films, music and other content. He was recently arrested in Poland and is being pursued by US authorities for copyright infringement and money laundering – among other charges.
It is believed that Vaulin owns Kickass Torrents – or KAT – which has now overtaken Pirate Bay to become the world’s biggest provider of pirated media.
You can run but you can’t hide
KAT, which distributes films, video games and music, is among the most-visited websites on the internet. It operates in more than two dozen languages and is thought to be worth in the region of $54 million, at the same time earning advertising revenue of between $12.5 and $22.3 million, according to the complaint.
Assistant attorney general Leslie Caldwell commented: ‘Vaulin is charged with running today’s most visited illegal file-sharing website, responsible for unlawfully distributing well over $1bn of copyrighted materials.’ Caldwell went on to say: ‘His arrest in Poland, however, demonstrates again that cybercriminals can run, but they cannot hide from justice.’
KAT has moved its domains on a number of occasions to avoid prosecution but officials were able to track and identify Vaulin from records Apple provided on his iCloud account. If extradited, he will face charges filed in federal court in Chicago.
A platform for piracy
It’s thought that Vaulin was involved in creating the original website which has been in operation since 2008 and, according to the justice department, ‘purports to comply with the removal of copyrighted materials’, although there’s no evidence to show it acts upon complaints from industry bodies such as the Motion Picture Association of America.
US officials are also involved in a long-running attempt to extradite the head of another piracy site, Megaupload. Its head, known only as Kim Dotcom, is free on bail in New Zealand pending the extradition – the appeal process will start later this month.
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