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Extradition proceedings underway in Kickass case

By | Published on Tuesday 4 October 2016

Kickass Torrents

In case you’re worrying that the MegaUpload extradition case might soon reach a conclusion and we won’t have a long-drawn-out tedious copyright extradition case to cover any more, worry not.

Firstly it won’t, whichever side loses the current appeal hearing in the MegaUpload extradition case will almost certainly appeal the appeal. And second, look, we have a whole new long-drawn-out tedious copyright extradition case to cover. The US has formally begun its extradition proceedings against the alleged owner of KickassTorrents, Artem Vaulin.

As previously reported, Vaulin was arrested in Poland in July at the request of the US government and he has been in jail ever since. Meanwhile the popular Kickass file-sharing site went offline at the same time.

According to Torrentfreak, American officials formally requested Vaulin’s extradition two weeks ago, while Polish authorities have extended the arrest of the Kickass man, which means he can remain incarcerated until 19 Nov, with an initial hearing to consider the extradition application sometime later this month.

Vaulin, who is from Ukraine, now has both Polish and US legal representation, though only the former is currently allowed to actively work on the case. Torrentfreak got its update from Val Gurvits, who is part of Vaulin’s US defence team but who is based in Poland.

There are parallels between the MegaUpload and Kickass extradition cases – even though they were very different services – and those parallels go beyond the fact that one lawyer, Ira Rothken, is working on both.

A key argument presented by the defence in both cases is that their clients are not accused of crimes covered by New Zealand or Poland’s extradition treaties with the US; though in the Kickass case there is the added element of the defence questioning whether Vaulin can even be accused of criminal copyright infringement, let alone fraud.

Gurvits told Torrentfreak: “The primary basis for challenging extradition is that the acts of which Artem is accused do not constitute a crime in Poland where he is detained, nor in the Ukraine where he lives and works. In fact, in my opinion operating an index search engine cannot constitute a crime in the United States because secondary infringement is not criminalised under US law. If KickassTorrents is a criminal operation, then Google should start worrying”.

Of course, piracy sites like Kickass and The Pirate Bay – which simply link to copyright infringing material rather than hosting it – have long compared themselves to mainstream search engines like Google, with an “if we’re infringing so are they” aside.

Though generally in civil cases courts have been happy to distinguish between a general search engine, which may inadvertently link to infringing material, and a search site specifically set up to help users locate unlicensed music and movies. There is less precedent here in criminal cases, though such arguments didn’t help the founders of The Pirate Bay in their criminal case in Sweden.

But either way, there is potentially enough ambiguity here to slow down any extradition proceedings. Though whether Vaulin will still be in Poland five years after his website was shut down – in the way MegaUpload founder Kim Dotcom is set to still be in New Zealand on the fifth anniversary of the shutdown of his site – remains to be seen.