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Kickass Torrents owner is arrested in Poland; domain names are seized

Elizabeth Olsen, left, Chris Evans and Sebastian Stan in Marvel's "Captain America: Civil War," a popular target for online pirates.
(Disney/Marvel)

The alleged owner of Kickass Torrents, a popular online destination for file-sharing, has been arrested in Poland, the U.S. Department of Justice said Wednesday.

The site, started in 2008, is the most-trafficked illegal file sharing destination on the Internet, with 50 million unique monthly visitors, according to the department.

Federal authorities have charged Kickass Torrents owner Artem Vaulin, 30, with one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, and two counts of criminal copyright infringement, the department said in a statement.

They have also seized seven domain names associated with the site. The U.S. will seek to extradite Vaulin, who is based in Ukraine, to the United States, the department said.

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“Copyright infringement exacts a large toll, a very human one, on the artists and businesses whose livelihood hinges on their creative inventions,” said Zachary T. Fardon, United States attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. “Vaulin allegedly used the Internet to cause enormous harm to those artists.”

Some of the servers used by the site are located in Chicago, the department said.

According to a complaint filed by Chicago officials, Kickass Torrents took in annual advertising revenue of $12.5 million to $22.3 million, while making available new films including “Captain America: Civil War” and “Finding Dory.”

Copyright infringement and conspiracy to commit copyright infringement carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison; conspiracy to commit money laundering is punishable by up to 20 years.

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ryan.faughdner@latimes.com

Follow Ryan Faughnder on Twitter for more entertainment business coverage: @rfaughnder

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