Huge Pirate Site Owner To Be Held Under House Arrest

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The owner of a huge file-hosting site shut down by the Ukranian government following a MPAA complaint will be held under house arrest for the next two months. Andrew Komlychenko faces up to six years in prison, with the prosecutor stating the importance of protecting foreign copyrights. Nevertheless, the country remains on the US Government's 'pirate' watchlist.

Serving more than a million users every day, FS.to was one of Ukraine’s largest pirate sites. Last year it was of the country’s top 20 most popular sites overall, but its focus on video content was to attract negative attention.

With FS.to in its sights for some time, the MPAA eventually filed formal complaints with local authorities. What followed was one of the biggest anti-piracy raids ever seen in Ukraine.

Last November, the cyber crime division of Ukraine’s national police shut down FS.to in what was a large and coordinated multi-location operation.

Authorities said that at least 19 people suspected of running the site via a network of local and offshore companies were arrested. The raids covered both residential and office locations, with swoops on datacenters where dozens of servers were seized.

One of those arrested was alleged FS.to owner Andrew Komlychenko. He was openly connected with the platform for a number of years, granting interviews with local media and discussing the site’s operations. In 2013 the site was reportedly sold to outside investors, but there are indications that the businessman remained involved.

Indeed, it appears that Komlychenko is now in considerable trouble. Alexander Strigunov, the prosecutor in charge of the case against FS.to, is calling for the toughest possible sentence. As a result, Komlychenko will be detained under house arrest for the next two months on a bail of almost $180,000.

Alexander Strigunov (credit)

“[The law] allows for up to six years in prison, but it is too early to begin talking about the sentence,” Strigunov said.

Also of interest is how Ukranian authorities have flip-flopped over what crimes the site and its owners have supposed to have committed. Initially it was made clear that FS.to had been shut down for being a piracy haven, but later it was suggested that non-payment of taxes and possibly money laundering was the main concern.

Of course, as the Megaupload case shows, these offenses aren’t mutually exclusive, but comments this week suggest that the protection of intellectual property with a distinctly political international angle is at the heart of this landmark case.

“I think it is necessary to compensate the losses incurred to foreign companies so that each company knows that its rights are protected not only by their national legislation, but the legislation of the countries where their rights are violated or affected. It is our image at stake,” Strigunov said.

But despite these notable efforts by the Ukrainian authorities, the country can’t seem to catch a break with the US Government. In the USTR’s latest annual Special 301 Report, Ukraine keeps its status as a priority threat.

Following the USTR’s announcement, First Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine Stepan Kubiv said that his country will continue its efforts to improve its copyright standing with the United States.

“Our task is to ensure proper protection of intellectual property for all creative works,” Kubiv said.

“This will improve the assessment of the Office of the US Trade Representative and the position of Ukraine in the Special 301 Report. That will improve the economic development of Ukraine, encouraging inventions and innovations while attracting significant investment to Ukraine.”

In the meantime, efforts have been underway to resurrect FS.to. At the end of March a new site appeared under the FS.life domain, but for the past several days the site has reportedly been under a DDoS attack and is currently non-functional.

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