CHICAGO—The U.S. government delivered a major blow to content pirates Wednesday by arresting Artem Vaulin—the alleged owner of KickassTorrents, who was found in Poland—and seizing several KAT domain names.
The 30-year-old Vaulin, from the Ukraine, was arrested in Poland and the U.S. has requested his extradition. According to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago, Vaulin is charged with conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and two counts of criminal copyright infringement.
Since the arrest, and the ordered seizure of several KAT domain names and a bank account, KAT and many of its proxy sites have gone dark. KAT was receiving millions of unique visitors a day, and was widely considered the most-used torrent site on the internet.
“The shutdown of KAT is nothing but a positive for the adult industry,” Takedown Piracy owner Nate Glass told AVN. “KAT is one of the biggest hubs of pirated content in the world and I couldn’t be happier to see international authorities work together to take down a huge piracy profiteer.”
Details of the criminal complaint show federal authorities, with help from Apple, posed as an advertiser on the site and obtained personal details about Vaulin that were used to track him down prior to his arrest. Authorities estimate KAT sites distributed more than $1 billion of copyrighted materials, from both adult and mainstream content providers.
“The other area where this benefits the adult industry even more than ‘mainstream’ industries is KAT was a huge manipulator of SEO traffic by using thousands of proxy/clone sites to flood Google results with pirate URLs,” Glass said. “Since Google already treats legitimate adult entertainment sites even worse than they do piracy sites, anything that helps purge those URLs from Google’s inventory can only be a plus for the adult industry.”
Since the news of KAT broke, a number of tech journals and news sites have reported that another popular site, SolarMovie, also seems to have gone dark. It is unclear is SolarMovie was part of KAT’s network, or operated separately.
“There was mention of SolarMovie in the KAT complaint, so it’s reasonable to think this is somehow related,” Glass said. “These pirates use multiple off-shore services and aliases that make it difficult to simply identify who owns certain websites, so it’s entirely possible that they could be directly connected. Or, it may just be a preemptive move by the SolarMovie owners to go dark when they sensed the ground beneath them was shrinking.
“Oftentimes, these streaming movie sites are pulling their content directly from partnerships with torrent sites like KAT,” he continued “So it could also be that once their ‘provider’ was turned off, they went dark.”
Though the sites are dark, there’s no guarantee they will remain that way. Case in point: Despite the arrest and ongoing extradition battle involving Mega Upload’s Kim Dotcom, many Mega sites continue to operate, though executives there claim all file-sharing now is legal and aboveboard. Even PirateBay, who’s owners were arrested, still operates. The news of KAT sites closing up shop is not license for those in the adult entertainment industry to get lax about protecting their content, Glass said.
“First of all, part of the reason why this is still such a big problem is that so many content producers are sitting on the sidelines letting a few studios do all the heavy lifting,” he said. “Every studio needs to be in the game and protecting their content. That’s No. 1. Pirates thrive on apathy. Our digital fingerprinting software has identified almost 4.5 million likely pirated tube videos that are owned by studios not using our program. That’s 4.5 million videos we can’t do anything about. That’s a big enabler for pirates to thrive.
“And, performers need to differentiate between ‘fans’ and ‘supporters,’” he added.
Glass said performers, many of whom have direct interactions on a regular basis with the people who enjoy their work, need to understand those who watch their content for free on pirates sites—including Pirate Bay, KAT sites and more—are not true fans; true fans are those who pay for their porn.
For more on how to combat piracy, visit TakedownPiracy.com.
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