Federal prosecutors on Wednesday filed charges against a Ukrainian man accused of running the world's most often-visited website for illegally sharing movies.
Artem Vaulin, 30, was arrested in Poland on copyright and money laundering charges, and the Justice Department said it would seek to have him brought to the United States for trial.
Prosecutors said Vaulin owned and operated "Kickass Torrents," or KAT, a commercial website that allows users to illegally copy and distribute movies, video games, TV programs, and songs since 2008.
Investigators said KAT receives more than 50 million unique visitors a month and is the 69th most frequently visited website on the entire Internet.
Court documents put the value of the stolen material at well over $1 billion.
Zachary Fardon, the U.S. Attorney in Chicago where the charges were filed, said pirating copyright material "exacts a large toll, a very human one, on the artists and businesses whose livelihoods hinge on their creative inventions."
In response to past lawsuits, seizures, and court actions in six countries, prosecutors said, Vaulin moved his web domains and changed their names to stay in business.
"This criminal case is a major step to reduce illegal theft of creative content by large-scale piracy sites," said Chris Dodd, chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America.
"Actions like these help protect the livelihoods of the 1.9 million hard working Americans whose jobs are supported by the motion picture and television industry — and a legal market that generates $16.3 billion in exports for the U.S. economy," Dodd said.