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Lawyers demand release of alleged KickassTorrents chief

By | Published on Tuesday 9 August 2016

Kickass Torrents

Legal reps for Artem Vaulin, the man accused of running file-sharing hub KickassTorrents, have written to the US government requesting that it drop all the charges made against their client and that he be released from the Polish prison where he is currently incarcerated.

As previously reported, Vaulin was arrested in Poland last month at the request of the US government, which wants to extradite him to face charges of copyright infringement and money laundering. He subsequently hired the services of Ira Rothken, the American lawyer who has been leading the defence of MegaUpload founder Kim Dotom as he fights extradition attempts and copyright infringement charges in relation to his old business.

The letter from Rothken’s firm, sent last week and published by Torrentfreak, requests that Vaulin not be interviewed by Polish or US authorities until they have had an opportunity to consult with the alleged Kickass chief directly, while also asking that the American government liaise with their Polish counterparts to arrange for that consultation to take place.

The letter then goes on to argue why the US should just go and drop all the charges made against Vaulin and allow him to leave jail. Rothken had already outlined the key argument when he confirmed he was working for the accused Kickass man: the file-sharing site never actually hosted any infringing content, which means it can only be held liable for what is variously called contributory, authorising or secondary infringement, and that’s a civil rather than criminal matter under American law.

Or, in the words of the letter: “This alleged criminal copyright case arises out of an erroneous theory of criminal copyright law advanced by the United States that attempts to hold Artem Vaulin criminally liable for the alleged infringing acts of KAT’s search engine users … Defendants cannot be held criminally responsible for what users do after they leave the KAT search engine behind. The Copyright Act does not criminalise secondary copyright infringement”.

Of course, we’re still calling Vaulin the “alleged” owner of KickassTorrents, and on that point the letter says “discussion of Mr Vaulin’s involvement in KAT shall await another day”, with the correspondence focusing instead on technicalities of American copyright law.

The majority of legal actions against file-sharing operations to date have been civil rather than criminal. Though there have been some cases where those running file-sharing hubs – who were therefore liable for contributory rather than primary infringement – have been found guilty of copyright crimes, the most notable being the founders and funder of The Pirate Bay. Though, crucially for Rothken, that was a Swedish case, and, his argument goes, provisions for such criminal convictions are not available under American law.

It seems unlikely the US government will have a sudden change of heart regarding its case against Vaulin this side of any court hearing. Quite how long it will take to get the defendant into a Polish court, let alone an American courtroom, remains to be seen.