Exactly one year ago, on July 20th 2016, the torrent community was in dire straits.
Polish law enforcement officers had just apprehended Artem Vaulin, the alleged founder of KickassTorrents (KAT) at a local airport.
The arrest was part of a U.S. criminal case which also listed two other men as key players. At the time, KAT was the most-used torrent site around, so the authorities couldn’t have hit a more prominent target.
The criminal case was the end of the torrent site, but also the start of a lengthy court battle for the defendants.
To this day, Artem remains in Poland. He’s currently out on bail awaiting the final decision on the extradition request from the United States, while the other two defendants remain at large. If he is extradited, it’s expected that an extensive court battle will follow.
Although the original KickassTorrents is website no longer around, the ‘brand’ is still very much alive. Soon after the site went down several KAT copies and mirrors appeared. For many, however, the original site is still dearly missed.
The most prominent effort to create a replacement is the product of a group of well-known staffers from the original site. They began to rebuild the community by launching a forum for estranged KAT users last summer. A few months later they expanded their KATcr project to a full blown torrent site, mimicking the looks of the original.
Today, one year after it all started, we reach out to the new KATcr team to hear about their memories and future plans.
“Looking back it was shocking and disheartening for everyone, we know it happens but didn’t expect our ship to sink like that. We’ve written history there though, made many friends, learned a hell of a lot, and achieved so much,” Mr.Gooner recalls.
“It’s thanks to the original site and the loyal, supporting users that we were able to rebuild our ship and set sail again,” he adds.
While KATcr was able to put up a forum within days, getting fully organized was a more complex operation. Several former admins came on board, but without access to the original code or database, it took a few months to build a KAT replacement from scratch.
The site eventually relaunched as a full-blown torrent site last December. Although it doesn’t get as much traffic as the original KAT, many former users have found their way ‘back.’
“Minus a few hiccups and various other minor issues most new sites experience, traffic is increasing at a good rate. We are continuously improving and our name is well and truly out there now. The door is open and everyone is welcomed with open arms, we know all too well what it’s like to lose our home,” Mr.Gooner notes.
A lot of people would think twice before attempting to fill the shoes of a site that was hunted down by the US Department of Justice. However, the KATcr team believes that they are acting within the boundaries of the law.
“As far as we are concerned we operate to every letter of the law,” Mr.Gooner states in full confidence.
In the future, the site hopes to expand its userbase even further. Although it’s now been a year since the original KAT was pulled offline, the KATcr team prefers to look ahead, instead of dwelling in the past. There are some people who are still missed, but other than that, the focus is forward.
“I mostly miss those that are no longer with us. But rather than living in the past, the present day and the future is what matters, so we don’t tend to look back to miss anything else,” Mr.Gooner says.
Looking ahead is what alleged KickassTorrents operator Artem Vaulin will do as well. His concerns are different though.
The most pressing question that has to be answered in the near future is whether Poland will extradite him to the United States. Through his lawyers, he previously floated the idea of surrendering to the US voluntarily to “resolve” the pending charges, but only under the right conditions.
Meanwhile, he remains in Poland on bail.