By Marcin Goettig
WARSAW (Reuters) - A Polish court has opened the way for the extradition to the United States of the owner of a file-sharing website to face charges of copyright infringement, but Artem Vaulin's defense lawyer said he would appeal against the ruling.
A U.S. court indicted Vaulin, a Ukrainian, last July for copyright infringement related to the distribution of more than $1 billion worth of movies, video games, music recordings and other content.
The indictment stated that for financial gain Vaulin's peer-to-peer file-sharing website, Kickass Torrents (KAT), had distributed since 2008 copyrighted works such as last year's film "Captain America: Civil War".
Vaulin, who has been in custody in Poland since last July, denies any wrongdoing.
"It is legally admissible to hand over the citizen of Ukraine, Artem V., to U.S. justice authorities," the District Court in Warsaw said in a statement seen by Reuters on Wednesday.
Vaulin's lawyer, Ira Rothken told Reuters his client would appeal on the grounds that so-called torrent files cannot constitute a criminal infringement of copyright.
Torrent files are used by Internet users to download relatively large files like films from a network of other users.
"We believe that the extradition request lacks merit," Rothken said. "If the indictment is defective then the extradition request based on the indictment is erroneous."
U.S. officials have alleged that the KAT website, which operated in about 28 languages, had a net worth of more than $54 million and illegally made available for download movies that were still in theatres such as "Independence Day: Resurgence".
Vaulin has been in custody in Poland since last July.
If Vaulin's appeal is rejected, Polish Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro will then decide whether to extradite him. The Polish supreme court may also have a say in the case.
Earlier this year, Ziobro wanted to extradite Oscar-winning filmmaker Roman Polanski, a Polish citizen, to the United States over a 1977 child sex conviction, but the extradition was blocked by Polish courts.
(Editing by Gareth Jones)