The same day the U.S. Justice Department dropped the hammer on Wolf of Wall Street producer Red Granite, it is going after the owner of the world’s most-visited illegal file-sharing site. The U.S. government has filed copyright-infringement charges against Atrem Vaulin, a Ukrainian who it says runs Kickass Torrents, or KAT. He was arrested today by local authorities in Poland, and the U.S. will seeks his extradition.
The government says KAT since 2008 has enabled users to illegally reproduce and distribute hundreds of millions of copies of copyrighted movies, TV shows, video games, musical recordings and other electronic media, collectively valued at more than $1 billion, according to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago. The feds say the site receives more than 50 million unique monthly visitors and is estimated to be the 69th most frequently visited website on the Internet.
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The complaint charges Vaulin with one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and two counts of criminal copyright infringement.
“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,” said Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “His arrest in Poland, however, demonstrates again that cybercriminals can run but they cannot hide from justice.”
In addition to the charges, a federal court in Chicago ordered the seizure of seven domain names associated with the alleged KAT conspiracy. The site operates in more than two dozen languages and relies on a network of computer servers around the world, including servers located in Chicago, and has operated at various times under the domains kickasstorrents.com, kat.ph, kickass.to, kastatic.com, kickass.so, thekat.tv and kat.cr, according to the complaint.
The Justice Department said KAT’s net worth has been estimated at more than $54 million, with estimated annual advertising revenue in the range of $12.5 million to $22.3 million, according to the complaint.
Criminal copyright infringement and conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison. Conspiracy to commit money laundering is punishable by up to 20 years.
“This criminal case is a major step to reduce illegal theft of creative content by large-scale piracy sites,” MPAA chief Chris Dodd said in a statement. “Actions like these help protect the livelihoods of the 1.9 million hard-working Americans whose jobs are supported by the motion picture and television industry – and a legal market that generates $16.3 billion in exports for the U.S. economy.”
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