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Ina Fried

Staff Writer, CNET

Apple Computer filed suit this week against three developers it says posted a prerelease version of Mac OS X onto the Internet.

The lawsuit, filed Monday in federal court in San Jose, Calif., alleges that the three men posted a developer release of Mac OS X Tiger onto sites used by the BitTorrent file-trading network. Apple is seeking an injunction to prevent further releases of its software as well as unspecified monetary damages.

“Apple’s future operating results and financial condition are substantially dependent on its ability to continue to develop improvements to the Mac OS and related software applications in order to maintain perceived design and functional advantages over competing platforms,” Apple said in the suit. “Apple therefore invests heavily in the development of new and innovative versions of the Mac OS and other software applications.”

In the suit, Apple said the tracker on one of the BitTorrent sites indicated that more than 2,500 copies of one Tiger version were downloaded. The postings began in late October and continued through this month, the Mac maker said.

The Tiger-related suit comes a week after Apple filed a separate lawsuit in state court against an unnamed individual who leaked details of a forthcoming music product, code-named Asteroid. Apple last week got a judge to sign off on subpoenas for three Mac enthusiast sites in an effort to uncover the source of that leak.

Apple previewed Tiger at its Worldwide Developer Conference in June but has not released a public test version of the operating system. Several versions have been available to developers, though on the condition that the software be kept confidential.

“Members of Apple Developer Connection receive advance copies of Apple software under strict confidentiality agreements, which we take very seriously to protect our intellectual property,” Apple said in a statement Tuesday.

Among the features Apple is touting for Tiger is an improved search technology, dubbed Spotlight. The software is scheduled to ship in the first half of 2005. Desktop search has become a crowded field, with Microsoft, Google, Yahoo and others working to release software that can scour a user’s hard drive.

The BitTorrent software at the heart of the Tiger suit has also been under attack from the Motion Picture Association of America and others. Last weekend, a number of the key “hub sites” that enable the peer-to-peer network went dark.