U.S. Government Indicts Three Alleged KickassTorrents Operators

The U.S. Government has followed up its criminal complaint against KickassTorrents with the indictment of three alleged operators of the site. In addition to their involvement with the popular torrent site, they are also linked to other 'pirate' sites including Leechmonster.com, Solarmovie, iWatchfilm.com, Hippomovies.com and Torcache.

kickasstorrents_500x500Last month, Polish law enforcement officers arrested Artem Vaulin, the alleged owner of KickassTorrents, who’s been held in a local prison since.

Polish authorities acted on a criminal complaint from the U.S. Government which contained several damning allegations.

This week, the Department of Justice (DoJ) followed up the complaint with a full grand jury indictment, which presents several new allegations.

In addition to Vaulin, it charges two other defendants, Ievgen Kutsenko and Oleksandr Radostin. The three men, all from Ukraine, are charged with several counts of copyright infringement and money laundering.

“Kickass Torrents, or ‘KAT,’ was a commercial website that facilitated and promoted the reproduction and distribution of copyrighted content over the Internet without authorization of the copyright owners,” the DoJ writes.

KAT’s seizure banner

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According to the indictment, the ‘KAT conspiracy’ involved a variety of piracy-related websites. It mentions that the torrent storage service Torcache.net, which went offline together with KAT, was operated by the same people.

In addition, the defendants were involved in a variety of direct download sites where users could download or stream copyright-infringing content, sometimes in exchange for payments.

These sites include the popular streaming portal Solarmovie, which disappeared last month, as well as the defunct torrent leeching service Leechmonster.

“Leechmonster.com, rolly.com, solarmovie.com, solarmovie.ph, iwatchfilm.com, movie2b.com, hippomovies.com, bino.tv, and moviepro.net were commercial websites that enabled registered users to download or stream copyrighted movies and other media directly from the website,” the indictment reads.

katindictment

According to the U.S. Government, the three men used the sites to generate millions of dollars in revenue.

“…defendants […] and others designed, developed, and operated KAT, torcache.net, and the direct download websites in order to encourage, induce, facilitate, engage in, and generate millions of dollars from the unlawful reproduction and distribution of copyright-protected media,” the indictment states.

The authorities describe KickassTorrents as a site that was developed purposefully to facilitate copyright infringements. Among other things, this included the sorting of torrents by genre, so they would be easier to find.

In addition, the defendants are also accused of developing a BitTorrent client to facilitate piracy, and of operating the subtitle repository Subtitlesource.com.

On the money laundering side, the indictment includes various examples of advertising payments that were made to bank accounts that were operated by the defendants. This includes a payment from an undercover IRS investigator, who posed as an advertiser.

The Department of Justice has yet to comment on the indictment and it’s currently unknown where the two additional defendants reside and if they have been arrested. The court record shows that two warrants were submitted yesterday, but these remain sealed for now.

Meanwhile, Artem Vaulin is still being held in a Polish prison, awaiting his extradition process.

His lawyer previously asked the Department of Justice to release his client. The defense argued that Vaulin can’t be held responsible for the potentially infringing actions of the KAT’s users, since criminal secondary or indirect copyright infringement does not exist under U.S. law.

A copy of the full indictment obtained by TorrentFreak is available here.

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