Kickass freak-out for online pirates

South African online pirates are looking to board a new ship after their favourite illegal source of music, movies and television series sank with the arrest of its Ukraine owner.

Even a message from what appeared to be authorities informing users of the world’s largest torrent site, Kickass Torrents, or KAT, that they were being monitored, has not stopped online pirates from looking for free, illegal content online.

A torrent refers to a website that offers file-sharing content.

While there are no records of users who steal content from the internet, South Africans, like their international counterparts, like to download pornography, music, books, films and television series sold on official websites.

A Durban user received an alert that his iPad address was picked up and he was being monitored before KAT was blocked yesterday.

“I still keep logging on to check if the site is up and running. I don’t think I can live without it. It is more user-friendly than any other torrent site and was the only one that had the latest content,” he said.

Forensic computer expert Danny Myburgh yesterday warned that South African users were not exempt from the law for downloading stolen content from torrent sites.

“International bodies can trace them and serve papers on them. Downloading and possessing copyrighted material is a legal issue. You can be prosecuted for it.”

Before Artem Vaulin, 30, was arrested in Poland last week for allegedly being the mastermind behind the file-sharing site, KAT operated in 30 languages and attracted more than 50million unique viewers a month.

South African technology market research firm World Wide Worx founder Arthur Goldstuck said online piracy was “big throughout the world”.

“The regional rights systems, which prevent movies and music from being released simultaneously around the world, incentivises South Africans to download content illegally rather than wait for it. That creates a culture of illegal downloads.”

TorrentFreak reported in April that South Africa was in the top 10 countries for the number of pirates who downloaded new episodes of Game of Thrones.

South Africa’s ShowMax – an internet-based subscription video on demand service supplying a catalogue of TV shows and movies – has not put a figure on the financial losses caused by torrent sites.

“It’s not easy to estimate the financial impact of piracy on ShowMax in particular. One of the imponderables is what proportion of people who use torrents would instead go the paid route if torrenting wasn’t an option,” ShowMax spokesman Richard Boorman said.