In July, Polish law enforcement officers arrested Artem Vaulin, the alleged owner of KickassTorrents, who’s been held in a local prison ever since.
The 30-year-old Ukrainian was arrested on behalf of U.S. authorities who officially requested his extradition two weeks ago. According to a grand jury indictment, Artem and two co-conspirators were the brains behind the popular torrent search engine.
To find out more about progress in the case we reached out to Val Gurvits, who is part of the U.S. defense team. Gurvits currently resides in Poland, as does Artem’s wife and 4-year old son. Gurvits informs us that the arrest was recently extended.
“The arrest has been extended to November 19. Artem is planning on challenging extradition through his Polish counsel. The hearing should be sometime in late October,” Gurvits says.
During the November hearing the defense team plans to fight the extradition by arguing that running a torrent search engine is not a criminal offense in Poland or Ukraine.
“The primary basis for challenging extradition is that the acts of which Artem is accused do not constitute a crime in Poland where he is detained, nor in the Ukraine where he lives and works.”
Artem’s counsel goes even further and notes that operating a search engine such as KickassTorrents isn’t a crime in the United States either. If it is, then other search engines might be in trouble as well, Google included.
“In fact, in my opinion operating an index search engine cannot constitute a crime in the United States because secondary infringement is not criminalized under US law. If KickassTorrents is a criminal operation, then Google should start worrying,” Gurvits says.
The Google analogy isn’t new when it comes to copyright infringement lawsuits. Previously the now defunct isoHunt.com argued the same in their civil case against several Hollywood studios, but that didn’t prevent it from losing.
Over the past several weeks the U.S. KickassTorrents defense team has put a lot of effort into setting up a meeting with Artem, something they still haven’t been able to do. As highlighted earlier, the alleged KickassTorrents owner is only allowed to work with his Polish lawyers for now.
Gurvits and the U.S. defense team hope that this will change soon. In the interests of justice, but also to allow Artem to prepare properly for his fight against the U.S. extradition request.
“In my opinion, given that Artem is accused of committing a crime in the United States under US law, denying him access to US counsel is a blatant violation of his human rights,” Gurvits notes.
With the KickassTorrents case, the U.S. now has two major copyright extradition cases on its hands. The other one, against Kim Dotcom and his Megaupload colleagues, is still pending after nearly five years.
Ira Rothken acts as the lead counsel in both cases, which to a large degree center around the same question. Can the defendants be extradited for copyright infringement charges?