US authorities have charged a Ukrainian man alleged to be the mastermind of the world's biggest online piracy website. Artem Vaulin, who is said to be the owner of the file-sharing site Kickass Torrents (KAT), is accused of money laundering and infringing copyright. He is accused of distributing more than a £1bn worth of pirated music and films over the past eight years. Mr Vaulin, 30, was arrested in Poland on Wednesday. The US justice department says it will seek his extradition.
According to US officials, Kickass Torrents operates in 28 languages and has a net worth of more than $54m. "Copyright infringement exacts a large toll, a very human one, on the artists and businesses whose livelihood hinges on their creative inventions. Vaulin allegedly used the internet to cause enormous harm to those artists," US attorney Zachary Fardon said in a statement. KAT does not host illegal files but provides internet links so that users can download material copied without authorisation.
One domain owned by KAT was the 70th most popular website in the world, according to web monitoring firm Alexa. The US Department of Justice has pursued other high-profile file-sharing cases in recent years. Kim Dotcom, the founder of Megaupload, one of the largest illegal file-sharing sites, is currently fighting extradition to the US. US officials say Megaupload helped deprive film and record companies of more than $500m in revenue.