Last month Polish law enforcement officers arrested Artem Vaulin, the alleged founder of KickassTorrents, who’s been held in a local prison since.
The Polish authorities acted on a criminal complaint from the U.S. Government. In the criminal complaint, the 30-year-old Ukrainian is charged with criminal copyright infringement and money laundering.
According to Vaulin’s legal defense team, lead by Ira Rothken, these allegations are baseless. While not addressing whether their client is indeed the owner of the site, they argue that the changes don’t hold up.
In a letter sent to the Department of Justice (pdf), they request the authorities to dismiss the criminal complaint against Vaulin and release him from prison as soon as possible.
One of the main arguments is that the alleged KickassTorrents owner can’t be held responsible for the potentially infringing actions of the site’s users. The defense team argues that criminal secondary or indirect copyright infringement does not exist under U.S. law.
“This alleged criminal copyright case arises out of an erroneous theory of criminal copyright law advanced by the United States that attempts to hold Artem Vaulin criminally liable for the alleged infringing acts of KAT’s search engine users,” the defense team writes.
The lawyers point out that the KickassTorrents website itself never hosted any infringing material. It only stored torrent files, and possible copyright infringements would take place once the visitors had left the site.
“By the time any possible primary infringement by a former KAT visitor could ever occur the visit to the site is long over,” the defense argues.
“Defendants cannot be held criminally responsible for what users do after they leave the KAT search engine behind. The Copyright Act does not criminalize secondary copyright infringement,” they add.
The affidavit also contains other “incorrect, misleading and irrelevant allegations” regarding BitTorrent technology and how KickassTorrents operated, according to the defense.
In addition, it lacks specific examples linking the alleged site operator to infringing downloads. In fact, the only relevant infringement quoted is one committed by an agent from Homeland Security Investigations.
“The Affidavit fails to identify even one specific infringement committed within the last 180 days by someone in the United States of America, other than by HIS Special Agents,” Vaulin’s defense argues.
The absence of any specific allegations is not an oversight according to the defense. Rather, it is a side effect of how far the alleged site owner is removed from potentially copyright infringing acts, they note.
Given the weakness of the criminal claims, Vaulin’s lawyers ask the U.S. Department of Justice to drop the charges against their client and release him from prison as soon as possible.
The letter further urges the authorities not to question, interrogate, or interview Vaulin, and allow the defense to immediately speak with him in prison so he can assist with his defense.