After Hijacking Site, Scammers Move to Seize Shareaza Trademark

After taking control of Shareaza.com, imposters trying to pass themselves off as an open-source dev team have stepped up their action to destroy the GNU GPL licensed project. In an audacious move, lawyers representing Discordia Ltd have filed to register the "Shareaza" trademark at the US Patent Office.

In a December 2007 hostile takeover, a company took control of Shareaza.com, the domain name used previously for the real, open-source Shareaza P2P client. The real Shareaza client is 6th in the Sourceforge all-time Top 10 downloads and is completely free (GNU General Public License), but this company is passing off its own closed-source software as the real thing. Essentially, they are stealing the Shareaza brand name and goodwill from right under the operators noses in an effort to crush the project.

Last week, the corporate battle against this almost defenseless collective of people working on the Shareaza project took a somewhat miserable twist when the operators of the fake Shareaza site (Discordia Ltd) threatened legal action against the real Shareaza, all because of a comment made by a user on their forums.

If you’re starting to get a little annoyed that this company is pushing its luck, you may be interested to know that their lawyers – Meister Seelig & Fein in New York – have links to the new owners of iMesh and Bearshare, both initially free, both now converted to pay services after legal action.

So if it doesn’t unsettle you that some music-industry backed company has come in and stamped all over a GNU GPL project, took their domain name, passed their own software off as the real thing and threatened legal action, then maybe this will:

On January 10th 2008, lawyers representing ‘Discordia Ltd’ filed for registration of the ‘Shareaza’ trademark at the United States Patent Office. As yet, the trademark has not been granted to them but according to staff at the real Shareaza project, it must be urgently contested. Discordia claim that the first commercial use of the Shareaza trademark was December 17 2007 but other documentation suggests Discordia claim copyright since 1999. The real Shareaza project has been running since 2004.

If Discordia are successful in their application, it will put the original real Shareaza in a position where they infringe on the imposter’s trademark and will doubtless be subjected to legal action.

According to a source at the real Shareaza: “Discordia Ltd. under which the trademark was sought is a Cyprus shell company designed to shield MusicLab, iMesh, parent companies and business partners from the exceedingly high risk of liability in this case. Private information will not be disclosed, however there is significant circumstantial evidence regarding the source of their unethical and illegal behaviors that ought to be brought to light for the greater internet community.”

The real Shareaza guys are calling out for support, you can read exactly what they need here, but they are also calling on all of the budding internet investigators out there to research Discordia, iMesh, MusicLab and lawfirm Meister Seelig & Fein to dig up any information that could be of use to them in fighting these imposters.

To defend against the trademark application, the Shareaza team really need support as the financial burden is quite high, they explain:

No Shareaza developer or enthusiast has ever recieved money as a result. However, several volunteers now out-of-pocket for hundreds of dollars are facing the prospect of thousands. Shareaza has always been and will always remain free, non-commercialized software – regardless of the high value of its use that must be protected. Donations will now begin to be accepted for the sole purpose of partially compensating these unfortunate expenses. (Including a possible $900 at very short notice.) A ChipIn account has been established for PayPal (account/credit card) payments large or small. Please consider sending at least the loose change in your account to show your appreciation for enthusiasts who could scarcely afford these costs themselves. Feel free to offer in other ways as well.

Personally I think this is a very worthy and symoblic cause. No-one likes being bullied, particularly by the music industry so when they choose to pick on people with few resources, the only way they can be beaten is if people stick together and act together. Shareaza isn’t my favorite client – even with its support for BitTorrent – but it’s free in every possible way with its GNU GPL license and these people from Discordia are determined to tear it all apart. It’s unthinkable that they can be allowed to get away with it.

Discordia should consider this statement about the legal standing of trademarks:

“Immoral, deceptive or scandalous matter or matter which may disparage or falsely suggest a connection with persons, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols or bring them into contempt or disrepute is not trademarkable.”

The real Shareaza team sends the final message:

You Can Help Most of All by Spreading the Word – SHAREAZAâ„¢ is the property of the Shareaza development team.

You can donate to the cause by clicking here.

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