KickAssTorrents, one of the most popular BitTorrent websites on the Internet today, is facing a total blackout in Italy. Following an investigation by the country’s cybercrime police, an ISP blocking order has now been granted against a site which authorities say is run by criminals generating millions of dollars. The move follows similar blockades against both The Pirate Bay and the now-defunct BTjunkie.
Early this year TorrentFreak published a shortlist of the world’s most popular torrent sites. Leading the pack was of course The Pirate Bay, but in third place came a site that over its relatively short life has been shooting up through the rankings.
Founded just three years ago in 2009, KickAssTorrents has shown that it’s serious about becoming a leading torrent site player. Of course, that has its drawbacks too.
The site’s increasing profile has caused it to appear in numerous MPAA, RIAA and government reports, in the US and elsewhere. News today reveals that the authorities in Italy have been watching the site for some time.
According to a report coming out of the police department with responsibilities for tackling cybercrime, KickAssTorrents will soon be subjected to a nationwide ISP blockade.
Translated as “Financial Guard”, the Guardia di Finanza (GdF) is a department under Italy’s Minister of Economy and Finance. Part of the Italian Armed Forces, GdF has in recent years been involved in many file-sharing investigations, most recently against KickAssTorrents.
Operation ‘Last Paradise’ has just concluded with the public prosecutor of the Sardinian capital Cagliari granting an “order of inhibition” which requires the country’s ISPs to cease providing access to the site. Similar orders were previously granted against The Pirate Bay and the now-defunct BTjunkie.
“This is another memorable dark day for digital piracy in Italy. After starting with The Pirate Bay in 2008 and the final closing of the doors at BTjunkie in February 2012, the Guardia di Finanza has targeted another super-pirate platform, virtually located in the Philippines and servers scattered around the world,” GdF said in a statement.
“This colossal site of 10 million active torrents receives over 3 million visits daily from all over the world and Italy was the third most popular country of origin for users behind only India and the USA.”
GdF adds that by their estimates, KickAssTorrents generates $8.5 million per year from advertising and other revenue.
“This international platform has long been targeted by U.S. authorities as one of the worst sites for the illegal distribution of music,” said Enzo Mazza, chief of FIMI, Italy’s answer to the RIAA.
“The intervention of the Italian authorities was very important, especially for the protection of legal music in Italy, which now represents 30% of the market. Platforms such as The Pirate Bay, BTjunkie and KickAssTorrents are run by criminal organizations that make millions from advertising.”
Responding to the news, Italian lawyer Giovanni Battista Gallus told TorrentFreak that unlike The Pirate Bay blockade, there is no “proper” court order for the current blockade. This also happened with the BTjunkie block earlier, which was handled by the same prosecutor.
“In this case the order has been issued only by the public prosecutor, without any judicial intervention,” he said. “I have serious doubts whether this is appropriate under Italian criminal procedure law, and I’m very curious to see the outcome of an appeal against this order.”
The extent of the forthcoming blockade isn’t clear from the information currently being released. However, the GdF statement specifically mentions kickasstorrents.com, a domain the site left behind when it switched to Kat.ph in April 2011.
Update: FIMI boss Enzo Mazza confirmed to TorrentFreak that both the old and new domains and IP-addresses will be blocked, and added the following message.
“The investigation into the criminal organization behind the site is still making progress and the public prosecutor is in touch with the authorities in the countries involved in the case. The case is followed by the Fiscal police who are usually investigating Italian mafia bosses. This means they are well equipped to take the members of the KAT gang to justice.”