The man behind the web’s biggest piracy network has been arrested, charged with criminal copyright infringement and money laundering.
30-year-old Artem Vaulin, the alleged owner of the world's largest torrent site Kickass Torrents, was arrested by the US Government in Poland, where the US has requested his extradition.
Kickass Torrents is a commercial website that enables users to illegally reproduce and distribute hundreds of millions of copyrighted motion pictures, video games, television programs, musical recordings and other electronic media since 2008.
With millions of unique visitors per day, it is now one of the most-used BitTorrent portals online - even bigger than The Pirate Bay. Alongside the arrest of the alleged site owner in Poland, a federal court in Chicago has ordered the seizure of Kickass Torrent domain names, in an attempt to close the site down.
In a criminal complaint filed in US District Court in Chicago, Vaulin has been charged with conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and two counts of criminal copyright infringement. Assistant Attorney General Caldwell told the US Department of Justice that Kickass Torrents helped to distribute over $1 billion in pirated files.
“Vaulin is charged with running today’s most visited illegal file-sharing website, responsible for unlawfully distributing well over $1 billion of copyrighted materials,” he said.
“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.” The complaint further reveals that the feds posed as an advertiser. This revealed a bank account associated with the site, which they have also attempted to seize.
According to the file, Apple handed over personal details of Vaulin after the investigator cross-referenced an IP-address used for an iTunes transaction with an IP-address that was used to login to Kickass Torrents’ Facebook account.
“Records provided by Apple showed that firstname.lastname@example.org conducted an iTunes transaction using IP Address 184.108.40.206 on or about July 31, 2015. The same IP Address was used on the same day to login into the KAT Facebook,” the complaint reads. However, despite the news of the owner's arrest, this might not mean the end for Kickass Torrents.
In 2009, the four founders of The Pirate Bay were jailed, but even this wasn’t enough to sink the site, which still remains afloat. Users are able to find their way to the site through a range of proxies that linked through to it from unblocked locations.
For those not up to speed, BitTorrent is a peer-to-peer file transfer protocol for sharing large amounts of data over the Internet, in which each part of a file downloaded by a user is transferred to other users.
It’s one of the most common protocols for transferring large files, and peer-to-peer networks have been estimated to collectively account for up to 70% of all Internet traffic. According to Palo Alto Networks, BitTorrent was responsible for 3.35% of all worldwide bandwidth in February 2013 - more than half of the 6% of total bandwidth dedicated to file sharing.
In March last year, UK Sky Broadband customers engaging in illegal file sharing were warned they could find themselves on the receiving end of a compensation claim for their ill-gotten gains.
The internet service provider complied with a court order to release the names and addresses of certain customers believed to be engaging in online piracy.
The order came at the request of American media company TCYK LLC which holds the rights to certain titles, and began taking matters into its own hands, sending letters to customers requesting compensation.