A former corporate attorney has launched a social service for sharing music, films, and other media — directly between friends.
The semi-public beta is comprised of two parts. The web portion, LibraryMixer, lets you populate an online library (no files, just information) of your books, films, music, and other media. The sharing portion, Mixologist, is a freestanding application that establishes a direct, encrypted computer-to-computer connection to share media files – that is, transferred files never end up in a third-party file locker (like Megaupload) and bits of it aren’t shared among a public swarm (like BitTorrent.)
When the two are used together, your friends get access to whatever media files you’ve set to shared in your library – a powerful solution in terms of privacy, with meta-data stored on the web while media transfers take place between peers.
The man behind the project is Mike Liu, a Columbia Law School alum and former corporate tax lawyer who returned to his coding roots – he was a computer science undergrad at Berkeley – after he was laid off during the recession.
“Maybe the key factor driving LibraryMixer and the Mixologist is the observation of how much we’ve lost from the old days of physical media,” he told Tech.li in an email message. “Citizens were treated like mature adults, making their own judgments on how they should stay within the bounds of the law, and being legally responsible for their own actions. Big Brother wasn’t spying on the room from his telescreen to make sure that citizens were complying with the law.”
Could the project run afoul of copyright law? Perhaps, but offenses would be difficult to enforce.
A key difference between his project and previous peer-to-peer filesharing services, Liu says, is that LibraryMixer has a host of legitimate uses – like writing reviews, making recommendations, and sharing properly licensed media. Rather than assuming that all users will violate copyright law if given the tools to do so, he chose to leave that choice to them, while encouraging them to respect intellectual property.
“Every time it comes up, I try hard to discourage users from using the Mixologist for piracy, and I hope and believe that the vast majority will appreciate it for what it is, the first tool that empowers users to be able to try to stay within the bounds of the law,” he wrote.
He also points out that Mixologist (which is open-source, and derived from Retroshare, a previous project) further nods to the pre-digital era of sharing media by letting users “borrow” files – a feature that moves a file to a friend’s computer, but deletes the original copy until the friend returns it.
Before the web, he points out, “the VCR or tape recorder sat right there in the room, a neutral tool for adults that could be used to copy or playback media.”
So far, Liu has funded the project himself. LibraryMixer’s only source of revenue at present are Amazon links that appear on some pages.