08 August 2017
Reporter: Barney Dixon

US right to indict KickAss Torrents founder

The US government was right to indict Artem Vaulin, the founder of peer-to-peer file sharing site KickAss Torrents, a US judge has ruled.

Judge John Lee of the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois rejected Vaulin’s motion to dismiss on 4 August, ruling that the indictment related to making copyright works available can stand.

Vaulin was arrested in Poland in July last year and charged with committing several acts of criminal copyright infringement and conspiring to launder money through his operation of KickAss Torrents, which distributed more than $1 billion worth of illegal content. The US has since attempted to extradite him.

Vaulin filed the motion to dismiss the lawsuit, but the US government argued that because Vaulin is a fugitive and refuses to appear in court, the motion should be declined under the fugitive disentitlement doctrine.

The doctrine provides that the fugitive from justice may not seek relief from the judicial system whose authority he or she evades.

Judge Lee agreed with the US government’s assertions that Vaulin’s motion was invalid under the doctrine, however, “for the sake of judicial efficiency”, Lee also dismissed the case on its merits.

Among other things, Vaulin had claimed that the indictment failed to adequately allege criminal infringement in the US and that it improperly seeks to charge him for extraterritorial infringement that cannot be prosecuted under the US Copyright Act.

Judge Lee agreed that the Copyright Act does not apply extraterritorially, but said that the core theory underlying the indictment is that Vaulin “aided, abetted, and conspired with users of his network to commit criminal copyright infringement in the US”.

KickAss Torrents ranked 69th as the most frequently visited website on the internet, with more than 50 million unique visitors per month.

Though the website has since been taken down and blocked in Europe and the US, various versions of it are still available through alternative domains and the TOR VPN network.

The website’s net worth was estimated at more than $54 million and has cost copyright owners more than $1 billion, according to the US Department of Justice.

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