7 August 2017Copyright

KickAss properly charged with copyright infringement, says US judge

The alleged founder of streaming website KickAss Torrents (KAT) has been properly charged with criminal copyright infringement, a US judge has said.

In October last year, lawyers representing Artem Vaulin claimed that “torrent sites do not violate criminal copyright laws”, in a motion to dismiss a lawsuit.

Vaulin was arrested in Poland by the US Department of Justice (DoJ) for criminal copyright infringement in July 2016.

The DoJ also seized domain names associated with the KAT website.

In the lawsuit brought against Vaulin, the DoJ alleged he had acted with “specified unlawful activity of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement” between November 2008 and July 8, 2016.

Ira Rothken, founder of the Rothken Law Firm, and Theodore Poulos, attorney at Cotsirilos Tighe, Streicker, Poulos & Campbell, said in the motion to dismiss that “the case involves an untested theory of first impression for purported criminal liability”.

The motion added that “KAT is nothing more than a search engine, no different in any material from Google”, because the website is “devoid of content files”.

The DoJ hit back, claiming that Vaulin had downplayed the significance of the torrent site, adding that for Vaulin to claim immunity from prosecution because he earned money by directing users to download infringing content from other users is “much like a drug broker claiming immunity because he never touched the drugs”.

Sister site TBO reported in November that Vaulin had filed his response stating that the government’s failure to allege “even a single copyrighted work uploaded, stored, or downloaded to/from such ‘direct download sites’” is fatal to the indictment.

On Friday, August 4, US District Judge John Lee handed down a memorandum opinion and order denying Vaulin’s motion to dismiss the indictment.

Lee found that the fugitive disentitlement doctrine, which provides that a court may dismiss a request for relief where the party seeking relief is a fugitive, applied in this case.

“Vaulin is correct that, as a general matter, the Copyright Act does not apply extraterritorially to reach acts of infringement that occur entirely abroad,” said Lee.

However, he added that the “core theory underlying the indictment is that Vaulin aided, abetted, and conspired with users of his network to commit criminal copyright infringement in the US”.

Vaulin had also argued that video streaming cannot be prosecuted as a felony and that there is no crime of making a torrent file available.

Lee disagreed, explaining that Vaulin’s argument “misunderstands the indictment” which “describes the torrent files merely as a means of obtaining the copyrighted movies and other media”.

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19 October 2016   Lawyers representing the alleged founder of streaming website KickAss Torrents have said in a motion to dismiss a lawsuit that “torrent sites do not violate criminal copyright laws”.