Kickass Torrents' Artem Vaulin hit with US criminal charges over illegal content copying

A Ukrainian allegedly the ringleader of the world's biggest online piracy site, Kickass Torrents, has been hit with US criminal charges yesterday, and stands accused of distributing over $1 billion (roughly Rs6,724 crores) worth of illegally copied films, music and other content.

The US justice department brought the criminal complaint against Vaulin, 30, of Kharkiv, Ukraine, who was arrested in Poland earlier in the day. The US authorities have brought copyright infringement, money laundering and other charges against him.

Vaulin is the alleged owner of Kickass Torrents or KAT, which in recent years had left behind Pirate Bay and others to become the world's biggest source of pirated media.

According to the criminal complaint, the website offered "a sophisticated and user-friendly environment in which its users are able to search for and locate content" which is protected by copyright.

According to the justice department, KAT which distributes films, video games, television programs, music and other electronic media, is estimated to be the 69th most frequently visited website on the internet.

"Vaulin is charged with running today's most visited illegal file-sharing website, responsible for unlawfully distributing well over $1 billion of copyrighted materials," said assistant attorney general Leslie Caldwell, AFP reported.

US officials alleged that KAT, which operates in about 28 languages, had a net worth of over $54 million and illegally made available for download, movies that were still in theatres such as Independence Day: Resurgence and Finding Dory, the complaint stated.

As per the indictment, for financial gain, the the peer-to-peer file-sharing website, known as Kickass Torrents, distributed since 2008 copyrighted works such as this year's film Captain America: Civil War.

''Copyright infringement exacts a large toll, a very human one, on the artists and businesses whose livelihood hinges on their creative inventions,'' US attorney Zachary Fardon said in a statement.

''Vaulin allegedly used the Internet to cause enormous harm to those artists,'' Fardon said, adding that KAT relied on computer servers around the world due to efforts to halt illegal file sharing.