Feds Seize Kickass Torrents Piracy Site Domain Names, Announce Arrest of Alleged Ringleader

Kickass Torrents

The U.S. Department of Justice has seized seven domain names associated with Kickass Torrents — purportedly the most-visited piracy site in the world — and charged the man they allege is its owner and operator with criminal copyright infringement and and money laundering.

Federal authorities said Artem Vaulin, 30, of Kharkiv, Ukraine, was arrested Wednesday in Poland and that the U.S. will seek to extradite him to the States. Vaulin allegedly owns and operates Kickass Torrents, which since launching in 2008 has provided a directory that lets users illegally download movies, TV shows, video games, music and other media collectively worth an estimated $1 billion.

Kickass Torrents has consistently listed movies still in theaters, according to the charges, which can be downloaded using file-sharing apps that use the BitTorrent-developed protocol. Recent titles include “Captain America: Civil War,” “Now You See Me 2,” “Independence Day: Resurgence,” and “Finding Dory,” officials said.

“Copyright infringement exacts a large toll, a very human one, on the artists and businesses whose livelihood hinges on their creative inventions,” Zachary T. Fardon, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago, said in a statement. “Vaulin allegedly used the Internet to cause enormous harm to those artists.”

Law-enforcement officials across the globe have battled pirate sites for years, but the task of shutting down such illegal operations remains challenging as pirates routinely switch up domain names and use anonymizing services that mask their identities and locations. In one of the most notorious cases, the FBI in 2012 shut down Megaupload.com, which allegedly caused more than $500 million in damages to copyright holders — while legally embattled founder Kim Dotcom has claimed he’s going to relaunch the site next January. Meanwhile, the Pirate Bay, despite several raids and arrests of its organizers over the years, remains up and running today.

Kickass Torrents had been attracting more than 50 million unique monthly visitors, according to officials. The U.S. government’s complaint charges Vaulin with one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and two counts of criminal copyright infringement. The copyright-infringement charges carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison, and the money-laundering charge is punishable by up to 20 years.

“This criminal case is a major step to reduce illegal theft of creative content by large-scale piracy sites,” MPAA chairman and CEO Chris Dodd said in a statement. “Actions like these help protect the livelihoods of the 1.9 million hard-working Americans whose jobs are supported by the motion picture and television industry – and a legal market that generates $16.3 billion in exports for the U.S. economy.”

In addition to the charges, a federal court in Chicago ordered the seizure of seven domain names associated with Kickass Torrents, which operates servers around the world including in Chicago: kickasstorrents.com, kat.ph, kickass.to, kastatic.com, kickass.so, thekat.tv and kat.cr.

According the DOJ complaint, Kickass Torrents’ net worth is estimated at more than $54 million, with estimated annual advertising revenue of between $12.5 million and $22.3 million. Kickass Torrents, also known as KAT, has moved its domain several times due to prior seizures and copyright lawsuits, and it has been ordered blocked by courts in the U.K., Ireland, Italy, Denmark, Belgium and Malaysia.

Federal agents busted Vaulin after posing as a prospective advertiser on Kickass Torrents. They linked Vaulin to the piracy site after identifying that the IP addresses he allegedly used to make Apple iTunes purchases on two different occasions in 2015 were the same ones used to log in to the KAT Facebook page around the same dates.

The KAT investigation was conducted by the DOJ in partnership with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations division and the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation division. Officials said they also received substantial assistance in the matter from the International Organized Crime Intelligence and Operations Center, the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center, the DOJ Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs, and the Polish Border Guard and National Public Prosecutor’s Office.

Filed Under:

Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 29

Leave a Reply


Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

  1. Goverment Shit just wanna money they poor!

  2. David says:

    Give it 1 week or 2 and there will be 4 or 5 more torrent sites up and running. You can’t stop it. People will use these sites. Or programmers like myself will code software like Lime Wire or some other PTP file transfer program. It’s not the site owner or even the programmer’s who are really doing the copyright infringements. It’s the users. The one’s who use bit torrent create a file then upload that file to the website. They are the ones who are breaking the law. Hosting a site and allowing a person to upload a torrent file isn’t. The torrent file holds no copyrighted Movie, book, music or software. All it does is open access to computers that have Bit torrent or UTorrent running and downloaded the torrent and is downloading the fragments or packets of information to form the actual copyrighted Movie, book, music, or software. The person who creates the torrent is the one who broke the law. Not the owner of any web-site or even the coder who wrote the software Bit Torrent and UTorrent. It’s the people who use it.

  3. T.D. says:

    Amusing you Idiots that still credit Benghazi to Clinton and not the Republicans responsible for that mess. Even dumber, Karl Rove and Collin Powell did the same thing pertaining to the emails except they deleted 3 times as much as she did. Yet, you Mongoloids will run and support an angry blowhard who has still to lament a presidential platform and the election is only a couple of months away. Go ahead and continue to be butt hurt over your “conservative propaganda” which amounts to that of a protein fart….. Nothing.

  4. CC says:

    Absolutely astounding how this adminstration and ‘just us’ department will not arrest Clinton for Benghazi and email espionage violations (the two are clearly related)… but they can go half-way around the world to pursue some kid and prosecute him for hosting LINKS to Hollywood’s DRECK.

    Hollywood should be paying him for spreading their culturally destructive garbage and propaganda.

  5. cat says:

    I could not figure out why I could not download my shows I missed until I googled kickass to and found out why they were shut down- any suggestions on what to use to download my shows that I missed?

  6. WTF. How the hell I’m I going to be able to download my shows that I miss because some other show coming on the same time or when I’m not home at night to watch my shows on tv.

  7. Oliver says:

    I love downloadng torrents!

  8. K-DOgg says:

    Typical, they can’t bust meth dealers,pedophile ring leaders,or child slave buisness….but they can bust someone in a FOREIGN country for helping us americans save money on buying something that’s not worth 0.01.

    • Warlock says:

      What do you expect from a corporatist oligarchic country? Imho all these torrent sites should block US access.

  9. ass says:

    dumb shut up and stop backbitching here

  10. WilddogAUS says:

    In other news… Top Federal Agents are watching at least 20 pieces of evidence of yet to be released major movie titles for authenticity, copies are being sent to all Law Enforcement Agencies across the planet as long as they cover the cost of the Blue-Ray/USB and Postage. They are also considering a P2P site for torrent sharing evidence globally and have announced all funds received will disappear into a, well somewhere!!!

  11. If HOLLYWOOD would stop making crappy movies, remakes of GREAT foreign films, Rebboot, upon Reboot of damn comic book films and pandering to the tween set with their HORRENDOUS “Jump Scare” Horror Movie Tactics, Paying “Actors” Millions and Millions of dollars to be in such dreck…Maybe juts Maybe people will go back to the theater.(That is if you can get the people around you to stop talking or taking phone calls without the fear of being SHOT if you ask them to stop….) INSTEAD we get CRAP, we get theaters for Millennials who can’t stay off their F’in phones. We 250 million dollar movies that are SOOOOO bad……WHY would we want to pay and go see them?

    • Paul Owl says:

      “Crappy movies” as you put it, and they are crappy are not near the main reason as to why cinema numbers have fallen. The new embedded culture that the digital world has imprinted on people the “why pay for it when I can get it for free” and the “if its online its open season” has added to diminishing numbers. These movies studios and as you have correctly stated these actors a vast majority who are talentless morons have been propelled to a level of prosperity receiving absurd millions and “billions” for the studios for less than average performances along with those awful reboots. Hollywood has long lost it’s creativity and it’s aura, hell it lost it’s soul. Now days it seems all you need to do is take a selfie and you are a star.

      On the other side of the coin if you leave your house unlocked and go off for the day does that give someone the right to ransack your house just because you where not there and the door was unlocked. The digital world is like the wild west, lawless, and those who seek to punish will only further strengthen this culture of digital “theft” as some might call it and their belief that if it’s online it should be shared without the cost. Let me put it this way, post your credit card details online and let the online community use your card for their benefit.

      Unfortunately the music and movie industries where too slow to adapt to the quickly evolving digital business model. At the start of the curve instead of embracing “illegal torrenting” and using it to their advantage they decided to sue and prosecute those directly involved with the development of torrenting sites and their user base. Now these studios are between a rock and a hard place.

      And still it seems that the lesson has not yet been learned. Pull up one weed and two will take it’s place
      It’s a brave new world…..

  12. Hamish McHarg says:

    Puppet masters and filthy rich corporate gives order the authorities to execute a certain task in remote and in return, they get paid handsomely. Same B.S,…

    How many heads does a hydra grow back?

    The Hydra of Lerna was a fabulous water serpent with nine heads, killed by Hercules in the second of his twelve labors. Hercules found that if he cut off one of the heads, two new heads grew back: hence some evils are spoken of as “many headed hydras”.


  13. Prez says:

    The FBI and all those police should worry about other more important stuff like donald trump and his immigrant wife who copied michelle obamas speech word for word!!! now thats piracy!!! they should worry about terrorists who kill mass amount of people like ISIS and stop worrying about kickasstorrents who helps people that cant afford to buy stuff coz not everyday has money!!!

    • usuq says:

      or how about the speech obama stole in 2008 from another speech given by Deval Patrick in 2006… LMAO!! dumbasses like you like to forget about that though, huh?

  14. Nuclear says:

    They should look for terrorists and worry about security and not download sites, but they are puppets of the entertainment industry and its billionaires executives who dont give a fuck for anyone to. the Internet is increasingly declining with these stupid attitudes, will come a time that will exist only social media and nothing else., which is why the US government is the most hated in the world with crap ideas like this, fucking bunch of morons!!!!

  15. @Agent_MAJ says:

    Good Bye old Captain Pirate!!! We always remember you!!!
    Welcome new Captain Pirate!!! Set The sails!! cause there’s a lot of ex-crew all around the world needs to be employed by new leadership!!!! we always support you all!!!!

  16. vivaldi says:

    If only they can DOJ can keep illegals OUT of the USA now. What a great priority list they have. Ididots!

  17. me says:

    Corporate Fascist US Government trying to tighten their debt wage slave noose around the necks of the world. When will they learn, they are only killing themselves with their arrogant clueless stupidity? Someone needs to arrest them all and throw away the key.. these people are sociopaths&psychopaths. that’s it. they are consumed and possessed by the power they think they have in all their status and money. not even thinking about the fact that all that power and money comes from WE THE PEOPLE!

  18. “Valuin allegedly owns and operates Kickass Torrents, which since launching in 2008 has let users illegally download movies, TV shows, video games, music and other media collectively worth an estimated $1 billion”

    Who the hell wrote this article? You can download the torrent file off the site, that’s it. You can not d/l the movies, tv shows, games, ect from the site itself, that’s not how torrents works.

  19. Al Bongo says:

    Ha ha ha…..Sure, because this will stop anyone from downloading Game of Thrones. Idiots.

  20. cory says:

    These Torrent site arrests have proven time and time again to have little to no effect on piracy in general especially considering people have access to the biggest pirate site called YOUTUBE. The biggest site run by google containing more pirate movies, music and videos than all combined torrent sites i can think of. When Google took over youtube, it became the biggest Porn/Pirate site on the internet. You can get any and all music from Youtube, you can link software and piracy warez on Youtube without getting banned. Only content providers can get you banned now. Google made it that way so they can have the pirate wares on its site for as long as possible. One can download any imaginable movie on youtube, including all music you can find on torrent sites, No one goes after youtube, no one shuts it down?. I guess if you have money and a name like google, one can run the biggest baddest pirate site on the internet and get away with it. Google/Youtube knows where almost every single pirate ware is on its site. Google/Youtube knows where all the pornography is, even when they they say they don’t allow porn or nudity) yet there are millions of graphic videos of women giving birth and teens video taping themselves having babies. Do they delete it, no, not until its flagged by content owners. Google grows youtube by allowing pornography and piracy than making it near impossible to take it down unless you can prove its your content that you didn’t allow on its site, The feds go after small fish like Kat knowing its all for publicity. Compared to Youtubes Piracy, KAT is a small player in the game. Keep pretending sites like KAT are the problem with piracy, until you take on youtube and shut its massive piracy site down, one has to wonder, are they really trying to get rid of piracy. Not really, you cant take down kat and leave youtube up. They both have just as much piracy on them. They took down mega uploads years ago with kimdotcom yet youtube has 50 times more piracy than kimdotcom had.

  21. Torrenter says:

    On to the next torrent site.

More Digital News from Variety