Two days ago, federal authorities announced that they arrested the mastermind behind the popular torrent site KickassTorrents, the largest BitTorrent distribution site in the world.
Prosecutors have charged 30-year old ArtemVaulin from Ukraine with a count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, and two counts of criminal copyright infringement. Like PirateBay, KAT doesn’t host the original files but provides links to .torrent and .magnet files that can then be downloaded to hard drives around the world. Vaulin was arrested in Poland on Wednesday, and the Department of Justice will shortly seek his extradition to the USA.
“Vaulin is charged with running today’s most visited illegal file-sharing website, responsible for unlawfully distributing well over $1 billion of copyrighted materials. In an effort to evade law enforcement, Vaulin allegedly relied on servers located in countries around the world and moved his domains due to repeated seizures and civil lawsuits. His arrest in Poland, however, demonstrates again that cybercriminals can run, but they cannot hide from justice,” Assistant Attorney General Caldwell said.
DMCA ignored all day long
Jared Der-Yeghiayan is a special agent with the Homeland Securities Investigation who says that Vaulin and KAT claimed that they respect the Digital Millennium Copyright Act when they in fact didn’t. Der-Yeghiayan was a key witness in the trial of Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht.
Here’s how KickassTorrent responded to the notice-and-takedown process:
Your request has been reviewed, but cannot be processed due to one (or
more) of the following reasons:
1) The Claim wasn’t written in English language;
2) You provided no evidence showing that you are the copyright holder
or that you are acting on behalf of the copyright holder;
3) You provided no evidence showing that the content is legally
4) There were more than [sic] 30 torrents mentioned in the Claim email;
5) Your content is hosted on a different website.
Please, make sure to fulfill all the conditions mentioned above before
sending a claim.
You can find more detailed information regarding the DMCA email
layout via the following article – https://kat.cr/dmca/
Der-Yeghiayan says that KATreceived more than $16 million from advertising revenue in 2016. He also says that an undercover agent purchased an ad on the site in March for $300 per day. KAT’s representative, “Mr. White”, provided details for a Latvian bank account but warned the agent to not mention KAT anywhere. After a highly successful 5 days, the undercover agent tried to buy another ad, but “Mr. White” informed him that the “fast download” ads were sold out, and recommended a more expensive banner which cost $1000-$3200 per day.
In May, “Mr. White” provided details for an Estonian bank account, from where the records were easily obtained by US Investigatorsthrough the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT).
HIS and IRS looked at the hosting records of KAT through the years, and noticed that the site was hosted out of Chicago by 3.5 years up until January 2016. They used a Canadian hosting service as well, which was also found through the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT).
Der-Yeghiayan also explained that Apple played a key part in the investigation by providing a copy of Vaulin’s mail (email@example.com) which contained incriminating information that gave them probable cause for criminal conspiracy. He also says that Costa Rican and Filipino authorities will use the MLAT process as well to shut down the kat.cr and kat.ph domains respectively.