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US Justice Department Grabs Owner of KickAss Torrents in Poland on Federal Copyright Charges.

by Paul Creech on Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Department of Justice announced today that it arrested the alleged owner of today’s most visited file-sharing website, KickAss Torrents, with criminal copyright infringement and have seized domain names associated with the website.

Artem Vaulin, 30, of Kharkiv, Ukraine, was arrested today in Poland and the United States will seek to extradite him to the Chicago to stand trial. Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division announced that the Government is alleging that Vaulin is “responsible for unlawfully distributing well over $1 billion of copyrighted materials.” Prior to joining the Criminal Division, Ms. Caldwell was a partner at Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP, representing the interest of corporate clients.

Pushing against the perception that the DOJ acts as the taxpayer-funded armed litigation wing of wealthy corporate interests Chicago’s U.S. Attorney stated, “Copyright infringement exacts a large toll, a very human one, on the artists and businesses whose livelihood hinges on their creative inventions.” Prior to being named as the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, Mr. Fardon was partner at Latham & Watkins LLP, where he chaired the Litigation Department in Chicago representing the interest of corporate clients.

The government’s criminal complaint alleges that KickAss Torrents receives more than 50 million unique visitors per month and is estimated to be the 69th most frequently visited website on the internet. The Government claims that KAT’s net worth is estimated at more than $54 million, with estimated annual advertising revenue in the range of $12.5 million to $22.3 million.  KickAssTorrents has blocked by courts in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Italy, Denmark, Belgium and Malaysia operating under the domains kickasstorrents.com, kat.ph, kickass.to, kickass.so and kat.cr.

Torrent sites, like KickAss Torrents, don’t actually host, post, upload or make any copyrighted information available for download. Instead, individual users upload the material in discrete fragments directly to other individuals. Those seeking the material download discrete bits from various unknown users simultaneously. None of the copyrighted material is actual stored, hosed, or passed through the torrent website. Software allows users to download and reconstitute the bits into a usable format. It is not exactly clear how Justice will will hold one person responsible for the discrete acts of millions of users who are actually uploading and and downloading the copyrighted material.

The Government lawyers associated with this case have not disclosed when they will return to private practice and once again represent the interests of corporate clients.

Paul Creech
Paul Creech is an attorney living in Houston, Texas. Paul has baccalaureate degrees in philosophy and political science from Utah State University, and a juris doctorate degree from Houston College of Law. He is a former U.S. Marine. Besides the law, Paul's interests include sports, art, and food.