Kickass Torrents (KAT) is one of the largest file sharing websites in the world that has allowed people to copy and distribute more than $1 billion worth of media. Since its inception in 2008, KAT has provided a directory that allows users to download TV shows, music, movies, videogames and other types of media. It is estimated that the aggregation of media that has circulated the website to be worth $1 billion.
Artem Vaulin, a 30 year old Ukrainian who is believed to be founder of the site was arrested on the 20th of July in Poland for his BitTorrent distribution operation. The US Justice Department announced that it will seek his extradition to the United States of America. 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. A court in Chicago has ordered the seizure of several domain names and bank accounts linked to Vaulin. The copyright-infringement charges carry a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison, while the money-laundering charge is punishable by up to 20 years.
US Assistant Attorney General Caldwell stated that “Vaulin is charged with running today’s most visited illegal file-sharing website, responsible for unlawfully distributing well over $1 billion of copyrighted materials. 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 U.S. Department of Justice estimates that hundreds of millions of copies of copyrighted material have been distributed and shared through KAT since 2008, and further points out that the distribution also includes movies that are currently screening in theatres. Several other domains such kat.ph, kickass.to, kastatic.com, kickass.so, thekat.tv and kat.cr. have also been seized for previous or current associations with KAT. According to the Department of Justice, KAT’s net worth is estimated at more than $54 million, with an estimated annual advertising revenue of between $12.5 and $22.3 million.
The battle between law-enforcement agencies and pirate sites has been spanning over several years. The task of successfully tracking down and terminating such illegal operations remains rather complex as pirates and cybercriminals routinely switch up domain names and use anonymising services that allows them to covertly roam the web untraced and unidentified. One of the most prominent cases was in 2012 when the FBI shutdown Megaupload.com and arrested its founder Kim Dotcom who continues to battle the decision and claims he will reopen the site in 2017.
Copyright infringement severely damages the livelihood of millions of artists around the globe. The industries affected by cybercrime suffer a loss of $16.3 billion in the US only.