Shareaza(TM) itself is a multi-protocol decentralized network client ("Peer-to-Peer") and file manager, built by a lone developer in 2002 and revised by volunteers world-wide since 2004 under GPL copyright license. There is daily code development committed to Sourceforge.net, and the software is widely distributed with an active concurrent user base over a million strong.
In 2007 following the new French DADVSI law, and "Vivendi-Universal Amendment" in particular circumventing US Grokster decision protections, the SPPF (French recording labels) announced it was suing Shareaza and two defunct companies. In late summer the "shareaza*com" domain holder, a trusted Florida end-user, received a specious lawsuit worth $2.5 million plus publicity demands, on the stated basis that his was the only name that could be found. He maintained privacy, and could not be reached in October after a server hardware failure. Shareaza.Sourceforge.net was therefore adapted as the official website.
On December 20th 2007, shareaza*com was again live and pointing to an unauthorized forgery site labelled under "MusicLab LLC," a known link to iMesh/Bearshare industry-sanctioned "legal P2P." This site used our copyrighted materials and misrepresentations of Shareaza's actual history to sell a "free" paid service as a "new version 4" of Shareaza. Installations of which removed the existing Shareaza and functioned as spyware. Requests for general copyright and GPL compliance were not returned, and the domain holder would not speak when reached on the phone. Four days later, the update.shareaza*com service was hacked and every user of Shareaza software was "updated" to the scam software while deleting our original application without consent. (User statistics quickly rebounded, however, to exceed pre-event levels.)
In January 2008, active iMesh representations were changed from "MusicLab LLC" to an off-shore "Discordia Ltd.," followed by three distressing actions:
- Their website was changed to original but deceptively similar graphics to our site, labelled "official" but with less incriminating text.
- Their lawyer sent a threatening letter to our community forum admin, on grounds of a new user's post that had previously been deleted. (It remains the sole communication received.)
- And their lawyer filed for our "Shareaza" trademark in the US.
It is the attempted trademarking on January 10th that most disturbs the Development Team. Beyond IP issues and reputation, the aim of taking our trademark is believed to be leverage for shutting down our Sourceforge repository and all distribution of binaries. Effectively closing our project by force of threat.
However, we understand there is a strong case to make to the USPTO (patent office) later this year, if we get the help we need. For the first time in the project's history, targeted donations are being accepted at Shareaza Legal Fund
As of September 2008, one former community member faces a multi-million dollar lawsuit for 'aiding and abetting copyright infringement' as relates to this forum; and the SPPF are moving ahead with their French lawsuit of Sourceforge. The next public Shareaza version 2.4 has faithfully been released on schedule.
Actions are now being taken in the name of "Discordia Ltd.," evidently an empty Cyprus shell company for "iMesh Inc." They use a common lawyer, IP address, web content, and rebranded proprietary software. (iMesh 8, Bearshare 7, Lphant 4, and ShareazaV5 are one product.)
iMesh itself was a small Israeli P2P company of six that settled a lawsuit with the RIAA in 2004. Now an entirely new "authorized" company based in New York, with at least 15 staff remaining in Israel, little is publicly known except key personnel and events. iMesh/industry collusion was in fact the basis of Limewire's RIAA countersuit. iMesh's chairman comes from the recording industry (RIAA president, IFPI board, Sony and RCA Records head) as an acknowledged liaison.
From ZDNet: By late the following spring, iMesh executives were meeting in Sony's headquarters with lawyers and businesspeople from all the major labels, as well as Audible Magic. iMesh President Talmon Marco remembers the meetings were supposed to be under a veil of absolute secrecy, even within the labels themselves.
As a result, "iMesh is committed to transitioning the compelling experience of (peer-to-peer) to an authorized marketplace. Our strategy includes the expansion through acquisition and the purchase of assets through our subsidiary, MusicLab."
iMesh/MusicLab acquired Bearshare for an inexplicable $30 million in 2006, part of terms initiated with FreePeers (P2P) as they settled for an equal amount with the RIAA. Thereafter existing as merely a rebranded iMesh client, ShareazaV4 appears to play into the same pattern.
Of note, one volunteer effectively withdrew from the project last year after a ranking iMesh contact offered him large sums of money to disrupt Shareaza. Others have withdrawn in light of recent events or faced personal lawsuits. Most consulted private counsel, raised donations/awareness, and re-dedicated to their work. I share the view that mere public use of my name would likely bring further ungrounded action by iMesh or the foreign SPPF. That this is a well funded, concerted effort to disrupt decentralized communication technologies and retain a new monopoly. However, those of us who remain believe strongly that preventing bad precedent is even more important for open source in general. A simple re-branding would be no more protected from the same predatory behavior.