- The Washington Times - Friday, August 26, 2016

The Justice Department broadened its copyright infringement case against the KickassTorrents (KAT) website this week by formally charging three Ukrainian citizens in federal court.

A 16-count indictment filed Tuesday accuses Artem Vaulin, Ievgen Kutsenko and Oleksander Radostin of various crimes related to an alleged conspiracy centered around the torrent directory — the “most-visited illegal file-sharing website” in the world, according to federal prosecutors.

Mr. Vaulin, 30, was arrested in Poland last month after a federal complaint was unsealed in Chicago accusing him of charges related to the website including criminal copyright infringement and conspiracy to commit money laundering. He remains in Polish custody while U.S. authorities seek his extradition, TorrentFreak reported Thursday.

In addition to those charges, the latest indictment filed in U.S. District Court this week accuses Mr. Vaulin and his previously unnamed co-defendants of using corporate shell companies and other evasive means in order to generate millions of dollars in illegal proceeds through the unauthorized distribution of copyright-protected music, movies, television shows and other media.

Together, according to prosecutors, the men conspired “to willfully, and for purposes of commercial advantage and private financial gain, infringe copyrights by reproduction and distribution.” They’re accused of facilitation the unauthorized sharing of at least 10 commercial released motion pictures, including “Deadpool,” “X-Men: Apocalypse” and “Warcraft,” as well as at least one film that was made available online prior to its official release, “The Butler.”

According to prosecutors, the three co-defendants designed, developed and operated KAT and other related file-sharing websites “in order to encourage, induce, facilitate, engage in and generate millions of dollars from the unlawful reproduction and distribution of copyright-protected media.”

Investigators say the men provided a user-friendly searchable index of illegal torrent files, and promoted their services across the internet for nearly a decade before KAT and its associated domain names were seized earlier this summer.

The Justice Department said last month upon announcing Mr. Vaulin’s arrest that it narrowed in on the site’s operations after an undercover agent paid money to place an advertisement on KAT. According to the latest charge sheet, advertisers paid upwards of $135,000 to place adds on the website — the 69th-most visited website in the world prior to being shut down, per the government’s own statistics.

The whereabouts of Mr. Vaulin’s two co-defendants and details concerning whether or not they’ve been arrested was not immediately clear, Torrent Freak reported Thursday. The Justice Department has not yet formally weighed in on the indictment, and did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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