AOL Execs Flush Nullsoft's WASTE

UPDATED Less than 24 hours after its public debut, WASTE was pulled offline by Nullsoft parent company AOL. In a notice posted to the former WASTE Web site, AOL said the release was "unauthorized" and revoked all rights to the software, demanding WASTE be deleted from users' computers.

"If you downloaded or otherwise obtained a copy of the Software, you acquired no lawful rights to the Software and must destroy any and all copies of the Software, including by deleting it from your computer," the notice reads. "Any license that you may believe you acquired with the Software is void, revoked and terminated. Any reproduction, distribution, display or other use of the Software by you is unauthorized and an infringement of Nullsoft's copyright in the Software as well as a potential violation of other laws. "

WASTE is a communication program designed for small groups with support for instant messaging, chat and file sharing. All WASTE traffic is encrypted, making the technology ideal for corporate environments where security is essential.

The move mirrors actions taken by AOL after the unsanctioned release of Gnutella by Nullsoft three years ago. A public file sharing application akin to Napster, Gnutella was yanked from Nullsoft's Web site after a flurry of media attention. However, the removal only sparked more interest in the program and offshoots soon appeared.

Although Gnutella has a decentralized architecture much like WASTE, the similarities between the two applications are few. WASTE was built for trusted groups of 10 to 50 friends and colleagues, not millions of users. Gnutella also has no native security, allowing an outsider to see exactly what each identifiable user is doing.

AOL's issue with WASTE seems to lie more in copyrights than file sharing concerns. Like many side projects from Nullsoft, WASTE was released under the GNU General Public License, allowing anyone to inspect, modify and freely use WASTE source code. But AOL is fiercely protective of technologies like WASTE that may be of use to the company or its competitors.

By asserting that WASTE was released by an unauthorized party, AOL is attempting to nullify rights granted to end users by the GPL, which states, "parties who have received copies, or rights, from you under this License will not have their licenses terminated so long as such parties remain in full compliance."

Unfortunately, it may be too late for AOL now that the cat is out of the bag. The WASTE application and source code have been mirrored across hundreds of servers on the Internet, while sharing of WASTE public encryption keys is quickly becoming a new trend among friends.

AOL did not return requests for comment by press time.

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