Hackers are working to harness built-in iTunes features to stream and steal sounds using the Internet, according to an extensive report from SunSpot.Net.

iTunes 4.0 has built-in support that lets users stream songs to each other over networks, supported by Rendezvous. Hackers have figured out how to harness this feature using IP addresses and the Internet to stream tracks from each others music collections.

Within a week of the introduction of iTunes, several Web sites, such as ShareiTunes.com, had sprung up that let users find each other to share tracks. These sites only supported streaming music, not theft - and because iTunes has a built-in limit to the feature of five users the feature was not like a webcast.

Then hackers developed solutions that let users download tracks from each others collections, effectively transforming iTunes into a Napster-like replacement.

Commenting on this, Recording Industry Association of America CEO Hilary Rosen told SunSpot.Net: "I think we were all a bit surprised, given how far Apple has gone to satisfy the music fan, that there is still such passion for getting around any legitimate system.

"It shows that there was always reason to be skeptical about those who have justified their theft by saying that there was no good legitimate alternative."

The sites offering places where people could meet to stream collections online acted creditably when they heard of the new hacker threat. They shut themselves down.

One of the developers involved in creating the streaming sites, David Benesch said he was "incredibly disappointed" that stealing software was developed.

The issues are being dealt with, the report states: "We are in constant touch with Apple, and these issues are being addressed," Jeanne Meyer, senior vice president of corporate communications for EMI North America, said.

Apple sources have also confirmed the company to be dealing with the threat to its digital rights management system.