If you downloaded Kanye West's album "The Life of Pablo" or a "Game of Thrones" episode without paying, you can probably thank Artem Vaulin. Or, at least, you could have, before he was arrested.
The United States Department of Justice announced they'd detained Vaulin, a 30-year-old Ukrainian who on the internet goes by "tirm," Wednesday in Poland for owning Kickass Torrents. The piracy directory website that was attracting more than 50 million users every month also appeared to have been pulled offline Thursday.
"Vaulin is charged with running today’s most visited illegal file-sharing website, responsible for unlawfully distributing well over $1 billion of copyrighted materials," assistant attorney general Leslie R. Caldwell said in a news release. "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."
The U.S. wants to extradite Vaulin stateside in order to prosecute him for Kickass Torrents. He's charged with conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement, money laundering and criminal copyright infringement. Vaulin was also involving in running a "front company" for Kickass called Cryptoneat.
The Justice Department alleges that Vaulin has operated Kickass Torrents since 2008. In 2010, tirm was listed as "The Owner — too busy for all your problems." In that role, Vaulin was likely receiving a share of the site's estimated $17 million in annual ad revenue, according to the criminal complaint. The tirm bio was later removed.
Vaulin registered several Kickass Torrents domain names after buying them through GoDaddy starting in 2009. The Justice Department examined a variety of his email accounts, including firstname.lastname@example.org, which contained scans of his passport and driver's license.
At one point, someone forwarded him a message from a film company requesting information about a user uploading certain content titled. The employee asked Vaulin if Kickass Torrents should ignore the request, and Vaulin wrote back, "Of course."
The complaint shows that the Justice Department was able to locate Vaulin in part because he used Facebook and iTunes.
Other information about Vaulin is scant. A curriculum vitae for a Ukrainian professor says he advised an Artem Vaulin who worked on a thesis titled "Web-Based Semantic Data Collection and Warehousing" in 2007 at the Kharkov National University of Radioelectronics. A LinkedIn profile in Vaulin's name lists his skills as project management, strategic planning and customer service. It also says he speaks Ukranian, Russian and English.