- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Justice Dept. said Wednesday that authorities have arrested the owner of the Kickass Torrents website, a widely popular online directory accused by authorities of facilitating the illegal sharing of over $1 billion in copyright-protected movies, music and other material.

Artem Vaulin, 30, was arrested in Poland on Wednesday upon being charged in the U.S. in a four-count criminal indictment that lists charges of copyright infringement and conspiracy to commit money laundering in connection with the website, the Justice Department said in a statement.

Federal prosecutors will seek his extradition, the statement said.

Mr. Vaulin, a Ukrainian, operated a website that provided upwards of 50 million visitors per month with the means of illegally downloading copyrighted material, according to prosecutors.

By providing users with a web-friendly searchable directory, Kickass Torrents enables visitors to seek out material ranging from full albums to high-definition movies, then freely create digital copies of their own through peer-to-peer file-sharing.

Launched in 2008, prosecutors say the website “enabled users to illegally reproduce and distribute hundreds of millions of copyrighted motion pictures, video games, television programs, musical recordings and other electronic media,” the likes of which the Justice Department has valued at over $1 billion.

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“Copyright infringement exacts a large toll, a very human one, on the artists and businesses whose livelihood hinges on their creative inventions,” said U.S. Attorney Zachary T. Fardon of the Northern District of Illinois. “Vaulin allegedly used the internet to cause enormous harm to those artists. Our Cybercrimes Unit at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago will continue to work with our law enforcement partners around the globe to identify, investigate and prosecute those who attempt to illegally profit from the innovation of others.”

Kickass Torrents is believed to be the 69th most frequently visited website in the world, the Justice Department said.

But likely not for long. According to the Justice Department, a federal court in Chicago has authorized the seizure of a bank account and seven domain names prosecutors say are associated with a vast copyright conspiracy operated by the website. At least one of the domain names was still active Wednesday.

Mr. Vaulin faces one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and two counts of criminal copyright infringement, according to a criminal complaint unsealed Wednesday

The Justice Department declined to comment further Wednesday, and Kickass Torrents did not immediately respond to email requests.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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