July 21st was a black day for some while for others it was a day of celebration. The reason behind these two extreme emotions was the arrest of Artem Vaulin in Poland. He is the owner of the world’s biggest torrent site, KickAss Torrents. Moments after his arrest, the Justice Department of the USA announced that it was charging Vaulin with criminal copyright infringement. It was paired nicely along with claims of money laundering. For those who had followed the Kim Dotcom/Megaupload case a few years ago, it was a moment of Déjà Vu.
The news of Vaulin’s arrest was damning to all the regular visitors of the site as well as the people using it as an advertising platform. Now they had to look elsewhere to download content from for free or pay exorbitant rates to purchase it. From the perspective of a common person, the arrest and shutting down of the site was a cause for mourning. However, for the big media houses, it was a cause for jubilation. KickAss Torrents were responsible for losses running into millions of dollars for these companies. However, no one should be mourning or celebrating just yet as there is a huge twist in the tale.
In the statement released by Homeland Security Investigations, they stated that “MPAA (Motion Picture Association America) has not granted permission to KAT to index, link, frame, transmit, retransmit, provide access to or assist those who distribute and reproduce infringing copies of copyrighted motion picture or television content.”
While the Department of Justice has asked for extradition of Artem Vaulin so that they can try him for criminal copyright infringement, they seem to have forgotten that there is no secondary liability in criminal infringement as it doesn’t exist within the law and this is not how the criminal copyright law works.
The criminal copyright infringement act is limited to a very few rights that include reproduction and distribution, and hence there are no basis for a criminal case of this accord. The implication of this is that even since KickAss Torrents does not host any of the actual infringing files, Vaulin is not legally responsible for anything or the actions of others. The complaint filed barely covers how Vaulin could liable for infringement and as of now it is all just smoke and mirrors.
Another complaint filed against Vaulin is KAT ignored a number of takedown notices by the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act). Again, they seem to have forgotten that KAT is not an American company. At max, it had a few servers in Chicago and so US laws don’t apply to it. Another mention in that complaint was that KAT and Vaulin had earned millions in illegal gains. It stated “people go to that site to find infringing content and the site makes money from the advertising and traffic.”. Again, this is a baseless complaint as legally; KAT is not doing anything illegal and is acting as a search engine.
So to put it in a nutshell, the Department of Justice is trying to convert a civil copyright infringement into criminal infringement. Namely aiding and abetting the infringement. Any good criminal lawyer worth his or her salt would make all these charges go and instead counter sue. The best course of action right now would be to drop this case all together. These sites are here to stay. A fact made abundantly clear by the fact that the very next day DXTorrents popped up to replace KAT. The USA should realize that it can’t apply its arbitrary laws around the globe as they have no jurisdiction.
They could treat these sites in the same way as they eventually treated the VCR. Nobody is interested in paying all year long for two months of a TV show. Nor in buying a movie that costs more than a ticket. The statement that it costs media houses millions of dollars every year is correct. But then it is also true that the money they lose is short change for them.
So it would suit everyone that the US government drops its charges. If it is so hell bent on suing for copyright infringement, then the US NAVY should be sued first. The millions of infringements it does every year is criminal too. Till the time the proceedings begin, let us all download Stranger Things from other sites. Now this is illegal, but so is most of the music in your iPod or phone. So sit back and watch how this all plays out. In the meantime #PrayForVaulin