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Developer to revive iTunes file-sharing

The developer of a peer-to-peer file-swapping plug-in for Apple Computer's iTunes music application has decided to give the software a new lease on life.

The developer of a peer-to-peer file-sharing plug-in for Apple Computer's iTunes music application has decided to give the software a new lease on life, after it was put out of commission by the computer maker's lawyers earlier this month.

Two weeks ago, Apple ordered developer James Speth to return his iTunes software developer kit and to stop distributing the iCommune plug-in for iTunes. The plug-in allowed iTunes to play or download music from other Macs via a network or Internet connection, potentially giving the music player a peer-to-peer feature.

In a recent message sent to iCommune users, Speth said that he will honor Apple's request to stop distributing his software, but he will build the same features into a standalone application. The next version of iCommune will work with iTunes and potentially other digital music players and will use Rendezvous, Apple's implementation of a protocol for automatic discovery of network-connected devices.

Speth also said that the new version will be open source under the General Public License, the same license used by the GNU/Linux operating system. Open-source software can be freely modified and redistributed, as long as the modified code is returned to the community.

"I'm going to get the basics of the next version done, then get it out the door, with source. Hopefully, from there it will take on a life of its own and get even better," Speth said in the message.

Apple itself has publicly demonstrated the use of Rendezvous to allow iTunes to access other playlists across a network, but has given no indication of when such a version of iTunes might appear. The current version 3 of the program shares playlists with other version 3 "iLife" applications, such as iMovie, iDVD and iCal.

ICommune differs from Apple's concept, however, in that it enables music downloads. Services such as Napster, Aimster, Morpheus and Kazaa have incurred the legal wrath of the music industry for enabling users to trade song files, which record companies say has resulted in mass piracy and declining CD sales.

However, Apple has said that legal fears played no part in its decision to pull the plug on iCommune. The proprietary iTunes software developer kit used by Speth was intended only for making iTunes connect to hardware devices, not to other Macs, according to Apple.

ZDNet U.K.'s Matthew Broersma reported from London .