In defense of torrents

With much fanfare from the Department of Justice, the alleged operator of the largest torrent site, Artem Vaulin, was arrested in Poland and the website was seized. Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell said, “[Artem] 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.”
The DOJ is seeking to extradite Vaulin, who is Ukrainian, from Poland to the United States where he is charged 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 for allegedly operating the website Kickass Torrents (KAT).
Ars Technica reports, “According to the 50-page affidavit authored by Jared Der-Yeghiayan, Vaulin and KAT claimed that they respected the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.” With the DOJ adding, “The copyrighted material is collectively valued at well over $1 billion, according to the complaint. The complaint alleges that KAT receives more than 50 million unique visitors per month and is estimated to be the 69th most frequently visited website on the internet.”
If the name Jared Der-Yeghiayan sounds familiar, it’s because he was among the agents involved in the conviction of Ross Ulbricht. And there are a lot of similarities between the Silk Road and Kickass Torrents. First off, three simple facts of the Silk Road case: Ross Ulbricht created a website; people used the website to sell things that other people wanted to buy; Ross Ulbricht was sent to jail for the rest of his life. Now, three three simple facts of the KAT case: Artem Vaulin allegedly created a website; people used the website to share digital copies of things that other people wanted; Artem Vaulin could be sent to jail for the next 20 years.
It should be noted there is nothing inherently illegal about a torrent. TechTerms explains, “A torrent is a file sent via the BitTorrent protocol. It can be just about any type of file, such as a movie, song, game… application [or text document]. During the transmission, the file is incomplete and therefore is referred to as a torrent… Torrents are different from regular downloads in that they are usually downloaded from more than one server at a time. The BitTorrent protocol uses multiple computers to transfer a single file, thereby reducing the bandwidth required by each server.” In many cases, sites like KAT do not actually host the torrent file, much less the book, movie, etc to be received by the recipient and serve as a link aggregation site – a Google for torrents, if you will. Until information can be exchanged without government interference, we will never have a truly free society. Join me in telling the federal government “copying is not theft, free Artem Vaulin!”
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