Apple stems iTunes’ Webcasting feature

Security controls on songs were not compromised

A function that allowed users of the latest version of Apple Computer’s iTunes software to play songs for others online has been disabled in a just-released update after it was being used to do illegal Webcasting.

Company said it was “surprised and disappointed” about the way some users had taken advantage of the Rendezvous function in the iTunes 4 software.

“We designed it to allow friends and family to easily stream (not copy) their music between computers at home or in a small group setting, and it does this well,” Apple said in a statement. “But some people are taking advantage of it to stream music to people they do not even know. This was never the intent.”

The company said the security controls it had put on songs sold through its new Music Store had not been compromised. With the controls, those songs may be played only on three Macintosh computers. But the Rendezvous function allowed songs ripped from other sources to be played online to any Internet address. Such Webcasting, without proper licenses, would violate even liberal interpretations of various exceptions to copyright laws.

In response, Apple released iTunes 4.0.1, which disables the Internet sharing component of the program and provides some minor improvements. The Music Store and iTunes 4 debuted a month ago. Apple said it sold more than 3 million tracks, at 99¢ each, in the service’s first month.