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iTunes song swap helper vanishes from Net

The MyTunes software, which turned Apple's jukebox into a way to trade MP3s, goes offline. But this time, it's not the record industry's doing.

When a program called "MyTunes" appeared online last year, allowing networked users of Apple Computer's iTunes digital jukebox software to download songs from each other, it had the feel of a breakthrough that wouldn't last forever.

Now, as some predicted, the popular software has all but vanished from the Net, and its programmer's sites have gone dark. But this time, it's not the doing of an angry record industry or a conflict-averse Apple. Trinity College sophomore Bill Zeller, who wrote the program in less than two weeks of off-time coding last year, says he simply lost the source code in a catastrophic computer crash.

"I was about to release the second version, when I lost everything," Zeller said. "I may put it back online, but there won't be any updates. I don't want to rewrite it."

Zeller's MyTunes software was a prominent example of how even the most tightly controlled software can be retuned by its users for unauthorized purposes. Apple has worked hard to establish itself as a loyal supporter of the record industry's copyrights and has previously moved to block features of its software that allowed unauthorized file sharing.

The program took advantage of iTunes' ability to let computers that are located on the same network, such as those within a single home or office complex, to look at and listen to each other's music collections. But where iTunes itself only allows different computers to listen to other people's songs, streaming the music without saving it, MyTunes turned this into the ability to capture and save the songs as MP3 files.

The feature did not work with songs purchased from Apple's iTunes Music Store, which are wrapped in copy protection technology and require passwords to copy them to additional computers.

Apple, which has spent considerable time over the past year wooing the music industry to support iTunes, did not comment on MyTunes' release last year and did not return calls for comment for this story. Previously, Apple had limited some iTunes music-sharing functions when Macintosh owners took advantage of them to share songs over the Net.

Because it worked only within a single network, MyTunes did not have that same ability to share songs widely and indiscriminately over the Internet. However, anecdotal stories from users showed that it was widely used by people to share music collections over internal corporate networks, which often have dozens or hundreds of people online.

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The Recording Industry Association of America, which has worked hard to shut down programs such as Kazaa or Grokster that allow file sharing over the Net, also declined to comment when the program was released.

Although Zeller said he might put the original version of the software, which was buggy enough to crash periodically, back online, he will not restart the project. He did not have backups of the source code and would have to start from scratch, the computer science student said.

Others might take up where he left off, however. The project would not be hard for another programmer to replicate, he said.

Zeller's program was downloaded more than 30,000 times over the course of several months, according to, a software aggregation site publisher CNET Networks operates.