From Slashdot today comes the news that the newest version of the popular Shareaza peer-to-peer program has been released under the GPL. Why is this important?

Suppose the main developer of Shareaza develops a terminal illness. Or suppose the RIAA realizes that its strategy of suing the people who use peer-to-peer networks will not work. Instead, it decides to use targeted assassinations in order to get rid of the developers of peer-to-peer programs (or, in a slightly less ludicrous scenario - it convinces the police to arrest such developers).

If the source to such programs is closed, the removal of their developers from the programming scene will surely result in a lack of new versions and features in these programs, leading to an exodus (for example, if Sharman Networks ever bites the dust, the unwashed masses who have flocked to Kazaa will surely flee to a range of other peer-to-peer networks). On the other hand, if the program is open-source, other worthy citizens will take up the source, and form new, different implementations.

Finally, how many open source programs include adware and spyware? Quite simply, the answer is "very few" because of the ease at which an enterprising individual (with proper access to the source code) can remove such limitations. If Kazaa Media Desktop had been released under the GPL, there would not have been a need for Kazaa Lite. Or rather, use of such a program would not be legally suspect, and you would probably still be able to find a download site without extensive searching.