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The Shareaza Conspiracy In a Nutshell


The hijacking of Shareaza.com is a complex story with many twists and turns. Here is the story of Shareaza from its open source GPL roots, to the hostile takeover and where the project is today, directly from those at the heart of the news – the real Shareaza community. The fight for Shareaza has only just begun.

Beginnings Are a Good Place To Start

In mid 2002, a lone programmer by the name of Micheal Stokes released the first version of a Gnutella client he had written, dubbed “Shareaza”. Over the next two years Micheal added to his client and coded in support for the eDonkey 2000 network, BitTorrent and a rewritten Gnutella-based protocol which he named Gnutella2. Shareaza gradually became more and more popular and Mike started to receive several job offers based on the strength of his work on Shareaza. He eventually decided that continuing to work on a p2p application in an increasingly hostile legal climate was too risky, but he did the honorable thing and released the Shareaza source code under the GNU GPLv2 on June 1, 2004 (which coincided with the release of Shareaza V 2.0).

Mike stopped working on Shareaza and went on to develop a new p2p-based streaming radio project named Mercora. As part of distancing himself from Shareaza, he transfered the shareaza.com domain to one of his old alpha testers named Jon Nilson, who continued to administer the domain until late 2007.

The French (RIAA) Connection

In late 2007 the Shareaza website went down for several weeks, but eventually came back online. Not long after that, the Shareaza.com domain began pointing to a different website which several sharp-eyed community members recognized as identical to shareazaweb.com, a known scam site purporting to offer users “legal p2p downloads”. It emerged that Jon Nilson had been forced to relinquish control of the domain as part of a settlement with La Societe Des Producteurs De Phonogrammes En France (the French version of the RIAA). Jon’s name was the only one connected with Shareaza that the SPPF could find and due to Shareaza’s popularity in France he had been named in a lawsuit along with Azureus and Morpheus. See here for more.

A Dump for Ill-Gotten Gains

Members of the Shareaza community managed to track the new “owners” of the Shareaza.com domain to MusicLab LLC, based in New York. MusicLab now distribute the “new and legal” iMesh p2p client after the original Gnutella-based iMesh developers were sued by the RIAA, and forced to settle for $4.1 million with a promise to turn their app into a paid download service. A similar legal fate befell another popular Gnutella application called Bearshare which was then rolled into the RIAA-approved iMesh. Nobody has managed to ascertain whether the original iMesh developers are still involved, but the merging of Bearshare seems to indicate that MusicLab is a vehicle used by the recording industry to dump assets acquired through lawsuits into.

It would seem that since Shareaza is developed by anonymous group of individuals and organized via “ad-hocracy”, there was no company to sue, so stealth tactics were employed against the weakest link in the chain: Jon Nilson. iMesh, Bearshare and the fake Shareaza being distributed from Shareaza.com are all the same application with appropriate re-branding.

Threats of C&D

As you can imagine, the members of the Shareaza community were rather upset about all of this and set up a new website with user forums. After two users made some offhand remarks about a distributed denial of service attack against the servers in Israel where the hijacked Shareaza.com site is located, our forum administrator received an email from one Jeffrey A. Kimmel of Meister Seelig & Fein, in his capacity as a representative of Discordia Ltd, the new new “owners” of Shareaza.

Mr Kimmel stated that DDoS attacks are illegal and any further talk by “users [who] begin to promote the destruction of a legitimate business” would result in Discordia Ltd “tak[ing] all necessary action to vigorously and relentlessly protect its rights.” He went on to state that “if this action is not immediately taken and, as result, our client’s business is harmed, we will not only pursue, locate and hold fully responsible each and every one of those who have implemented this, or any similar DoS, but also those responsible for maintaining your site and the forums.”

The posts in question had actually been taken down by forum moderators already (as per forum rules on objectionable content), however this email was cause for great concern: not only were the domain hijackers starting to create a series of shell companies to avoid being identified, but they had engaged lawyers to monitor our forums and threaten anyone making disparaging statements about them.

(Full text here)

A Tangled Web

More research by community members revealed that Discordia Ltd is registered in Cyprus, possibly owned by MusicLab but at arm’s length to avoid as much fallout as possible. Meister Seelig & Fein’s Kimmel also appears to have a long history of dealings with the recording industry, notably in the participation of the iMesh and Bearshare lawsuits and an interesting Amicus Curiae brief in the MGM vs Grokster which details how the new iMesh software has all the answers to stopping piracy and creating a wonderful legal download service.

Making The Takeover Official

In what is possibly the most audacious step so far, Discordia Ltd filed for a trademark on “Shareaza” with the USPTO on January 10, 2008. (Link)

If granted, our use of the Shareaza name will immediately infringe upon Discordia Ltd’s official trademark and we will doubtless be subject to legal action until we stop any infringing action i.e. we rename the project, remove all references to “Shareaza” and forget about the whole thing.

The Danger Posed To Open Source Software

Unless we are able to prevent the trademark being granted and regain control of the domain, our project will die. It really is as simple as that. Seven-odd years worth of brand recognition as “Open Source, Spyware, Malware and Advertising Free” will disappear and although we can (and have) dealt with “clones” who take our OS code base, add some spyware and release a “new” client as their own (breaking the GPLv2 in the process by not releasing the source) there is no possible way that we can survive having our identity stolen like this. Unlike a run-of-the-mill copyright violation, we are going to be permanently deprived of something. Our code is open to whoever wants to see it, we charge no money for the use of the program; the only thing of value that we have is the name and recognition that goes with it. The worst of it all is that this “software identity theft” could signal the beginning of hostile corporate takeovers of common property – the fact that we are in this predicament proves it to some extent.

What we need to know is if the people who stood up for an open culture by hacking copyright law will help protect that culture where it comes to trademarks and halting the advancement of encroaching corporate interests. If “common law” trademarks can’t be protected there is a very real danger that what happened to us will happen again and again and again. Many of us who work on the Shareaza project can foresee things becoming so that people will stop bothering to work on OS projects: open source software is, by it’s nature, more useful that closed source software and the more useful something is, the more popular it becomes…and then someone with expensive lawyers will come along and take it all away from the people who actually created it.

We recently asked for donations from our users for a legal defense fund and (very) quickly raised $2000. In our public thank you letter we wrote the following:

“There is one fundamental right that should never be in dispute: the right to be recognized as a creator. This moral right transcends arguments on whether copyright should last for 50 years or a hundred, whether software should be patentable or not, or even what a fair price price for an MP3 file is. Being able to say to the world “I made this” and be acknowledged for it is, for many people, the only reward they receive for their work. To deny that right is an insult to the creative forces flowing through every writer, performer, musician, actor and programmer who brings their work to the world.”

We have a section dedicated to this whole situation on our new forums which includes full details of all the events that have taken place so far.

Any help you are able to provide would be very, very gratefully accepted. Any advice, introductions or referrals to others who may be able to help us will be a great help.

Kind regards,

Shareaza Community

A very interesting read from the best torrent/p2p news sites torrentfreak.com . Definitely there is a conspiracy going on, and something is rotten in Denmark. It’s sad to be constantly reassured that corporations and the media conglomerates are destroying the internet community slowly but surely. These are the entities who try and dictate how we should use technology, and they are the biggest hypocrites in the game who continuously abuse their powers, don’t play the rules and are assholes in every way shape and form. All I can suggest at this point is to keep educated about the current events involving the p2p community. Maybe donating to the cause could be a good thing to do as well.

source: torrentfreak.com, ernesto


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  1. TitosSaladTosser
    March 15th, 2008 | 08:34

    I was always curious as to what the deal was with the Shareaza.com site being fake. I only knew it was a scam in getting people to pay money for a free program. Good info!

  2. Dr Bhaskar
    March 15th, 2008 | 08:41

    Very informative and interesting read…. It’s a pity that people against the open source movement have managed to take down one of the best P2P programs… :(

  3. anon
    March 15th, 2008 | 08:42

    Truly this is a disturbing universe we live in

  4. Atlas
    March 15th, 2008 | 08:45

    Just read the article on tf. I suppose that this is RIAA’s attempt to be ironic by depriving the creaters of the benefits of their creation.

    They need to turn to the FSF (Free Software Foundation) and the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation), who would immediately be on their side and organize a pool for legal aid for this exact situation, as well as getting them some top notch lawyers. They have been working on this to protect individuals/small groups to not be sued out of existence by the mafiaa.

  5. synonymous
    March 15th, 2008 | 08:50

    Just read it (usually don’t read long postings, but this was interesting) and I have to say, that’s pretty messed up (can’t say f***ed because of the censor (on a piracy site)). I mean, if they’re able to do that to Shareaza, then companies like Nintendo, Sega, Sony, etc. could start taking over other open source projects such as emulators that are currently being developed.

  6. synonymous
    March 15th, 2008 | 09:11

    @6, call me

  7. PG
    March 15th, 2008 | 09:26

    To me it seems there’s more and more need for an organized counter-offensive from us, the P2P community, against shell companies like this and of course against all public organizations like MPAA, RIAA etc. – we have always been the ones creating the programs and doing all the inventions, so we should be the superior part when it comes to finding creative ways to strike back. Sure, we could always resort to DDoS and similar, but there are even better ways which are actually inspired by their own methods, like going straight for the man (the people) and not the company, something every person is ultimately vulnerable to. We have the strength in both numbers and intelligence so this should really be an easy thing to do – if we just can organize this thing.

  8. Red Dragon T-114
    March 15th, 2008 | 09:42

    blah blah blah.
    What is the moral of the story pls?

  9. valin the vagrant
    March 15th, 2008 | 10:00

    now here’s a real question pertaining to the fake shareaza, how does it affect programs like eMule, which uses the same p2p networks as it? And is that part of the reason there has been alot more fake files and viruses in those p2p files than normal?

  10. HELLO
    March 15th, 2008 | 10:38

    5 years ago i googled “download free movies” and I went to a site that said “if you pay 15.00$ you can download from 20,000 movies,” it was something called like “lightning movies.” So I paid, and they gave me a bittorrent client and links to mininova and torrentspy. That introduced me to torrents and how EVERYTHING IS FREE!!!!! From then on I haven’y paid for a THING! except for rapidshare. :-)

  11. OldRlsLog
    March 15th, 2008 | 10:47

    @11 LMFAO!!!! You paid for a service that was already free – you got robbed my friend! LOL

  12. unknown
    March 15th, 2008 | 10:49

    the only difference between you and me is i never paid for any free stuff…

  13. GFire
    March 15th, 2008 | 11:21

    Thank you for the info…
    It is rotten that money seam to have the law on their side.
    And if they would win to steal an Open Source and make it their
    own then everything open source are at an risk and Hell enough
    is enough (somewhere the money over law need to have an end)

  14. dodgy bros
    March 15th, 2008 | 11:29


  15. Nik
    March 15th, 2008 | 11:39

    If i read this correctly, Micheal Stokes didn’t relinquish copyright when he gpl’ed his code. Therefore he can sue for both copyright infringement and GPL violation.

  16. Someone Noone
    March 15th, 2008 | 12:02

    @5, “synonymous”: SEGA has already bought-out a Saturn emulator, and Sony had the developer of ePSXe stop his work with some rather unpleasant and very real threats…

  17. Deface
    March 15th, 2008 | 12:22

    I enjoyed this post. Thanks.

  18. None
    March 15th, 2008 | 12:37

    Seeing as you didnt write these t.f articles, it would be polite if you only “copyed and pasted” half of it and sent the readers over to there site for the rest, what if torrent freak started copying and pasteing you film reviews exactly as there wrote on here and posted them, i bet a tenner you would moan and say something about it, tossers

  19. Bend For A Freind
    March 15th, 2008 | 13:29

    Instead of salad, go ‘toss’ yourself off a cliff.


  20. rochie
    March 15th, 2008 | 14:05

    but mostly i enjoy dog or horse salad well of late anyway
    I have had goat ,……and it’s quite nice too

  21. rochie
    March 15th, 2008 | 14:08

    oh …. and you there cnut @23 dont take a song that great in vain or I’ll make you eat more than my salad
    you got that @23

  22. Poppa!
    March 15th, 2008 | 14:13

    Best post by Mr X so far IMO!

    Couldn’t agree more with #8 PG. As these scumbags are targetting the community, eventually it has to be the oppsite way (i.e. the community targetting each of these scumbags one by one individually on personal basis)if they want ot wain. It’s a full scale war now where there is no value of moral no respect for any rules. If needed, these pigs should be taken out. Drastic action is required which would make an impact. Time to :nuked: nuke :nuked: them all, 1 by 1.
    Some indications in 2007 can only point towards a grim future timeline starting as early as 2008, this year, for ppl like us who want to share things they care for among ppl with like minded interrests.

  23. MR.Ceeeeee
    March 15th, 2008 | 14:19

    i used this back in the day when i was about 14 lol
    i soon switched to proper download clients that didnt come up with a virus everytime u searched for “anything” lol

  24. ssj4monkey
    March 15th, 2008 | 14:55


  25. Death To Spammers
    March 15th, 2008 | 15:17

    What, is no one working the ban button today?

  26. smaugthewyrm
    March 15th, 2008 | 15:32

    if you can, try this. find someone that is completely outside of the open source world. find someone like your granny that barely knows how to pull up a webpage.

    then try to explain to this person the concept of open source software.

    it gets a bit difficult when one tries to explain WHY a anyone would work so hard for no financial gain.

    then try to convince this granny that there are thousands, upon thousands of peeps out there doing just that. “will work for props”

    i did not see an old example, so here is what we used to say to help explain…
    “the internet makes knowledge into an element. just like fire or water, knowledge can be beneficial or destructive, can be incredibly powerful, and should always be free and uncensored.”

  27. Jim
    March 15th, 2008 | 15:48

    That’s insane. Donated…

  28. uraloser
    March 15th, 2008 | 17:18

    Great post by Mr X. Great article by TF.
    Heading over to donate, I hope they accept PayPal.

  29. /b/Lover
    March 15th, 2008 | 18:42

    Shame I can’t donate, no way to transfer money unfortunately but if I could I would have. Now we just need M$ to patent the Linux source code and then demand money from everyone. This company needs to be crushed and hard by a huge movement so that no other company tries this anywhere else in the EU.

  30. ROnzy
    March 15th, 2008 | 18:43

    Goodbye Shareaza…

  31. Cromwell
    March 15th, 2008 | 21:13

    This whole deal smacks of hypocrisy. Infringing rights to a program whose design is to do exactly that; infringe on other rights. Ah the irony. ;-)

    I was a Shareaza fan a long time ago, when bittorrent was still in it’s infancy. Shareaza may have even helped bittorrent gain some of the popularity that it did back then. G1/G2/Ed2k were all good networks, especially for music and appz. When fakes started to become an issue, sites much like today’s torrent sites popped up with MD5 sums of confirmed real releases.

    One of the reasons I liked Shareaza was because I managed to figure out how to force it to download without sharing, even though the devs claimed this wasn’t possible. This was something that was important to me back then due to the fact that the world was in major legal turmoil at the time, and I certainly didn’t want to take any chances with getting sued. Now that the dust has settled some what and the future is a bit clearer, I don’t worry quite as much (I only use bittorrent these days, and yes I do seed lol).

    Love it or hate it, nobody can deny Shareaza was one more welcome stepping stone on the path to free stuffz, and are part of the history regarding the evolution of file sharing. It will be missed. :-)

  32. misiek
    March 16th, 2008 | 01:21

    @9 DOESNT BELONG ON THIS SITE !!!!!!!!!!!

  33. Shinjuku
    March 16th, 2008 | 02:24

    very compelling read. i didn’t know this was going on. i’ll try to follow this.

    also; spread and stumble or whatever this to make it know

    anything to help I guess

  34. geezaboo24
    March 16th, 2008 | 11:56

    I too started learning about sharefiling thru a paid service. 20$ unlimited music dl’s..OMG..soo stupid..lol..However.if I had gotten busted for illegal dl’s then..would I have been liable seeing as how I paid for my service? Or would it be considered recieving stolen property?…lol

  35. getyourown
    March 16th, 2008 | 16:21

    uhm…I don’t get this…

    “Definitely there is a conspiracy going on, and something is rotten in Denmark.”

    nothing in this article never claimed this to be a Danish project..what is it that is rotten in Denmark? *confused*

  36. MoJo
    March 16th, 2008 | 17:14

    The rotten in Denmark is a reference from “Hamlet” a William Shakespeare book/ play. I think it just highlights the awful things to come in the future of OS as these things become more prevalent.


  37. mkz
    March 16th, 2008 | 20:12

    I was a victim of Fakeaza (false Shareaza) until guys from Shareaza has helped me at forum at http://www.shareaza.sourceforge.net and I have downloaded from there true Shareaza soft. Do not loose your money at shareaza[dot]com – they don’t want to get them back!!! I think I lost my money for nothing.

  38. Ragnarok
    March 23rd, 2008 | 03:22

    This is rediculous next thing you know wal mart will be in peoples houses telling them they can’t cook something a certain way because they have copyrighted it, or someone cant grow their veggies in the garden because winn dixie has cornered the market on produce

  39. John
    April 9th, 2008 | 02:47

    I found this link on the CMS Made Simple Forum regarding Shareaza! Please give it a look:

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