Kickass Torrents (KAT) is the world’s most popular file-sharing website. On Wednesday its owner, 30-year old Artem Vaulin, was arrested in Poland on charges of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and two counts of criminal copyright infringement.
The arrest was performed on behalf of the US Department of Justice, in accordance with a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) treaty. This also made it easy for the US DoJ to obtain Estonian banking records belonging to the Ukrainian national. According to an official press release,
“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.”
Kickass Torrents provides .torrent and magnet links to copyright-infringing content, but does not host any such content itself. The website receives over 50 million visitors each month, has a net worth of around USD $54 million, and is estimated to earn $12.5 million to $22.3 million through advertising revenue.
Unlike websites such The Pirate Bay, KAT always claimed to respect properly submitted DMCA notices asking for links to infringing content be removed. According to the 50-page Criminal Complaint filed by federal investigator Jared Der-Yeghiayan, however, DMCA notices were not in fact complied with. They were instead met with the following response:
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 then [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/
In his affidavit, Der-Yeghiayan explains how he posed as a KAT advertiser. His initial ad cost $300 per day, but when he tried to take out a second ad, he was told that only more expensive banners were available.These cost an eye-watering $1,000 to $3,200 per day.
When buying ads (via a Latvian bank account), Der-Yeghiayan was warned to “make sure that you don’t mention KAT anywhere.” Additional payment were made through a different Estonian bank account.
Vaulin is also accused of running a Ukrainian company called Cryptoneat. It is alleged that the main purpose of this was to launder money obtained through KAT.
The Apple connection
Interestingly, the Complaint (page 43) makes it clear that Apple cooperated with federal authorities in tracking down Vaulin. It did this by identifying IP addresses used by Vaulin’s email account (firstname.lastname@example.org) to make transactions.
“Records provided by Apple showed that email@example.com conducted an iTunes transaction using IP Address 18.104.22.168 on or about July 31, 2015. The same IP Address was used on the same day to login into the KAT Facebook Account. Then, on or about December 9, 2015, firstname.lastname@example.org used IP Address 22.214.171.124 to conduct another iTunes transaction. The same IP Address was logged as accessing the KAT Facebook Account on or about December 4, 2015.”
Page 41 also makes reference to Der-Yeghiayan having access to Naulin’s iCloud account.
“During the search of Vaulin’s Apple iCloud account I discovered that Vaulin has an instant message account he uses with the username “nike.”
It is expected that Vaulin will be deported to the United States, where he will face trial in Chicago, Illinois. The copyright charges amount to a maximum of just 5 years, but the money laundering charge could land him in jail for up to 20 years.
The reason that Vaulin is being tried by a court in Illinois is that about 3 and half years ago, ending in January 2016, KAT operated out of servers based there (in addition to servers based in Canada).
The Kickass Torrents website is now completely unavailable. This also includes all of its major mirrors. The website for Cryponeat (Vaulin’s Ukrainian company) is also off-line.
It is worth noting, however, that no other employees of either Kickass Torrents or Cryptoneat have arrested or named in the affidavit.
KAT was the world’s most popular torrent site. Its takedown will therefore inevitably leave a big hole in many torrent enthusiasts list of resources. So what are the best alternative websites to get your downloading fix?
With the apparent demise of KAT, ExtraTorrent picks up the crown for largest torrent indexing website in the world. It offers a huge range of torrent links, and although not as good as KAT’s, it has an active community that regularly comments on the torrents. This provides invaluable insights into how good the torrent links are, the quality of downloads, whether they contain any viruses, etc.
Kickass Torrents might be the world’s most popular torrent website (at least until yesterday), but The Pirate Bay (TPB) is by far the most (in)famous! And for no small reason. It offers a huge selection of well indexed torrents, and unlike KAT, has never even pretended to comply with DMCA notices.
TPB was raided in December 2014. It bounced back quickly, but its once great comments sections have never since been able to match those available on KAT. On the plus side, though, the ridiculous number of X-rated ads that used to plague the site have now all disappeared.
Note that at the time of writing TPB appears to be down also, but there is no reason (yet) to suspect this portends a major problem.
Unlike KAT and The Pirate Bay, Torrentz does not index torrents. It instead acts as a “meta” search engine that searches multiple torrent index websites in order to find the content you want.
Originally a Bulgarian torrent tracker, RARBG is now based in Amsterdam. It indexes all kinds of torrents, is up-to-date, and has a lively community of users that comment on torrents.
Downloading movie and TV torrents to watch locally is so 2014! Popcorn Time is an app that allows you to stream media content using the BitTorrent P2P protocol. It features a slick and easy-to-use interface, and because the BitTorrent protocol is such an efficient means of transferring data over the internet, it can deliver high quality (720p or 1080p) video streaming without buffering issues on even fairly slow internet connections. Check out 5 Best VPNs for Popcorn Time for the full low-down.
If you do prefer to download your movies old-skool style, then YTS.ag is good port of call. The original YTS (formally YIFY ) team was famous for releasing its own high quality but low bitrate rips of the latest movies. They threw in the towel last year, but YTS.ag (which has nothing to do with the original group) aims to take their place. As far as I can tell, YTS.ag is used by Popcorn Time.sh and PTCE as a source for their movie content.
Always use a VPN to protect yourself when torrenting
Please remember that you can get into serious trouble for downloading copyrighted content from websites such as Kickass Torrrents. And the way in which the BitTorrent protocol works veryone else downloading the same file can easily see the IP address of everyone else who is downloading that file (hence the names P2P and filesharing!). This makes it very easy to get caught.
Using a VPN will protect you because:
- Your ISP cannot see what you get up to on the internet as all data that passes between your computer and the VPN server is encrypted. This means that your ISP cannot see that you are torrenting, or indeed, what you are torrenting.
- Anyone watching from the internet (e.g. copyright holders who monitor the IP addresses of torrent users who download their content) will see the IP address of the VPN server, not your real IP address. In other words, using a VPN hides your real IP address.
Using a VPN will also allow you to bypass censorship blocks placed on torrent sites by many governments.
Be aware, however, that not all VPN providers permit torrenting. For a run-down of the best VPN providers that do permit P2P, plus an in-depth discussion on using VPNs when downloading, please check out 5 Best VPNs for Torrent Downloads, or use the below table.
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