'Owner' of file-sharing website charged with copyright infringement

'Owner' of file-sharing website charged with copyright infringement
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US prosecutors have charged the alleged owner of one of the world's largest file-sharing websites with distributing millions of copies of copyrighted films, music, video games, TV shows, e-books and software valued at more than one billion dollars.

In a criminal complaint unsealed this week in Chicago, where some of the Kickass Torrents site's servers were located, prosecutors said Hollywood films that were legally available only in cinemas at the time often appeared on the site. Newer films on the site, also known as KAT, included Captain America: Civil War and Independence Day: Resurgence.

Artem Vaulin, 30, of Kharkiv, Ukraine, was arrested on Wednesday in Poland and the United States is seeking his extradition, the US attorney's office in Chicago said in a statement.

Vaulin, who purportedly used the handle "tirm" online, faces one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, one of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement and two of criminal copyright infringement. The money laundering count alone carries a maximum 20-year prison sentence.

"Copyright infringement exacts a large toll, a very human one, on the artists and businesses whose livelihood hinges on their creative inventions," US Attorney Zachary Fardon said in the statement. "Vaulin allegedly used the internet to cause enormous harm to those artists."

KAT started in 2008 and operated in some 30 languages, attracting more than 50 million unique viewers a month and generating up to 22 million dollars in advertising revenue each year, the complaint said. Within just a few days this year, the film Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice was downloaded more than 532,000 times, it added.

Site operators have played cat-and-mouse games with authorities, the complaint alleges, including moving its domain following legal action in several countries such as Britain, Ireland, Italy, Denmark and Malaysia.

In addition to the charges, a Chicago federal court also ordered the seizure of seven domain names linked to KAT. Those sites appeared to have been shut down as of Thursday.

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