Apple, Napster Swap Jabs Over Security Flaws

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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