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StreamCast CEO Griffin resigns

Steve Griffin, the chief executive officer of the company that developed the Morpheus file-swapping software, is stepping down along with other top managers.

The chief executive officer and two other top managers of StreamCast Networks, developer of the Morpheus file-swapping software, have resigned, citing differences with the company's controlling investors.

Departing CEO Steve Griffin and chief technical officer Darrell Smith led the company throughout its years-long incarnation as one of the most popular file-trading software companies on the Net. In an interview Monday, Griffin cited differences with Timberline Venture Partners, a venture capital firm that controlled StreamCast's board of directors, as the reason for the management exodus.

"There were some issues as far as direction of company," Griffin said. "The investors wanted to go one direction and management wanted to go another direction. That's not healthy for the company, or for the people involved."

Griffin declined to give details on the dispute, other than saying that Timberline planned to move StreamCast to the Pacific Northwest, away from its current headquarters in Tennessee. Timberline partners who sit on StreamCast's board could not immediately be reached for comment.

In addition to the CTO, Griffin said the company's chief operating officer also has left the company.

In a short statement Friday, StreamCast said it would continue to operate despite Griffin's departure.

"StreamCast Networks is currently in the process of selecting the best candidate to take StreamCast and...Morpheus to the next level," the company said in a statement. "In the interim, StreamCast's executive team is running the company operations and remains firmly committed to producing superior P2P software products like Morpheus."

Griffin had steered the company, once known as Music City, into controversial waters more than once, even by the standards of a file-swapping company.

Once the most popular file-trading application on the Net following Napster's demise, StreamCast was one of several companies sued by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), Hollywood studios and music publishers in 2001.

Morpheus began sliding in popularity about a year ago, when the millions of people using the network to trade files found themselves suddenly disconnected disconnected. The widespread failure of a supposedly decentralized peer-to-peer network spawned conspiracy theories for weeks.

Ultimately the creators of the technology underlying Morpheus said StreamCast simply hadn't paid its bills and that the network shutdown was a result of that financial dispute.

Griffin and StreamCast immediately switched tracks, relaunching a few weeks later with a new file-swapping service based on open-source Gnutella technology. But the company's popularity never wholly recovered.

While Morpheus remains among the most-downloaded software programs online, its popularity has recently been outstripped by rival Kazaa. Last week, Morpheus was downloaded more than 194,000 times, while Kazaa was downloaded more than 3 million times, according to Download.com, a software aggregation site operated by CNET Networks, the publisher of News.com.

Griffin said he and Smith have already started a new holding company called M-Terra. The pair has no specific business model yet, but plans to be involved in digital content distribution, he said. The new venture will try to work more closely with content owners than StreamCast was able to, however.

"We're not going to do anything close to getting our company sued," Griffin said. "You can't talk to these companies when they're suing you. It's going to be refreshing to pick up phone and have a dialogue."