I’m a bit slow on posting about this since it happened in June, but Shareaza, one of the best peer-to-peer clients for Windows has had to change its official web site again due to it being sabotaged by outside forces.
Originally the site was at shareaza.com, with some material hosted on SourceForge (the program has been open source since 2004). The owner of the domain eventually gave it up after a legal challenge and it was bought out by iMesh, a company which used to release an eponymous peer-to-peer client of their own but now sells a ‘legitimate’ music download application. They then released a program known as ‘ShareazaV4’, which was actually just a rebranded version of their own iMesh program. As well as stealing the Shareaza name, it used the Shareaza branding as well, and apparently came bundled with spyware. As such, I won’t link to shareaza.com and it’s notable that searching for ‘shareaza’ on Google or Yahoo! will not show shareaza.com anymore.
Upon the loss of shareaza.com, the project moved completely to SourceForge, but was later offered hosting at the pantheraproject.net domain and this was adopted as the ‘new’ home of the official client Shareaza. The owners of shareaza.com, which had now passed to a company called Discordia (which appears to be an international shell company for iMesh) applied to register Shareaza as a trademark at the US Patent and Trademark Office. The official Shareaza project started a legal defence fund; the trademark application has now been published for opposition so hopefully the case will be heard now.
But last month the pantheraproject.net domain was also sabotaged, by a chap named William Shields Erwin, who had gained rank in the project by donating money to the legal defence fund. All of the content on the site was lost and it too ended up pointing at shareaza.com, which offers iMesh’s fake Shareaza client. So Shareaza has again ended up back at SourceForge and has had to establish a new wiki and forum with as much content from the old domain as was possible to retrieve.
If Shareaza was an illegal piece of software, this kind of action may be proportionate, but it isn’t. While it can be used to facilitate copyright infringement, which generally is illegal, the application can also be used solely for legal means, such as downloading content from sites like LegalTorrents. The company which is allegedly responsible for the sabotage, iMesh, claims to be a legal download service, but it is seemingly engaging in activities which disregard intellectual property, rather than protect it. It just so happens that the intellectual property it appears to want to sabotage belongs to the Shareaza project and not entertainment industry rights-holders.
Shareaza’s open source nature means it’s unlikely that it will ever disappear – provided there are enough copies of the source code spread about and people willing to keep it going, it’ll keep coming back. But to come under such a sustained attack for making something that isn’t breaking any laws is morally wrong.