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Apple, Napster Swap Jabs Over Security Flaws

February 16, 2005|Jon Healey | Times Staff Writer

If you want to spread bad news about Napster Inc., just tell Steve Jobs.

The Apple Computer Inc. chief executive sent an e-mail Tuesday morning to top record industry executives, alerting them to a security gap in Napster's music service -- a rival to Apple's iTunes online music store. "Thought you should know if you haven't heard about this," Jobs wrote.

The e-mail directed the label executives to a Web page detailing how to convert Napster's rental tunes into permanent downloads that can be burned onto CDs. The page urges people to sign up for a free trial of Napster and copy as much music as possible before canceling.

Napster CEO Chris Gorog sent the labels a retort Tuesday afternoon, arguing that such copying programs were neither new nor a problem only for Napster. Such programs are time-consuming because they "essentially work like a tape recorder," converting files as they play, Gorog said.

By contrast, he said, it is "trivial" to download a free program that circumvents Apple's anti-piracy software and unlocks "a large collection of iTunes music in seconds." He provided the Web address of a site that supplied such a program.

Neither Apple nor Napster would comment on the e-mail exchange. Spokesmen for the major record companies declined to enter the fray.

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