May 31, 2012 AT 7:33 am

3-D Printing and copyright

Pt 1092

Clive Thompson on 3-D Printing’s Legal Morass @ Wired Design.

Last winter, Thomas Valenty bought a MakerBot — an inexpensive 3-D printer that lets you quickly create plastic objects. His brother had some Imperial Guards from the tabletop game Warhammer, so Valenty decided to design a couple of his own Warhammer-style figurines: a two-legged war mecha and a tank.

He tweaked the designs for a week until he was happy. “I put a lot of work into them,” he says. Then he posted the files for free downloading on Thingiverse, a site that lets you share instructions for printing 3-D objects. Soon other fans were outputting their own copies.

Until the lawyers showed up.

Games Workshop, the UK-based firm that makes Warhammer, noticed Valenty’s work and sent Thingiverse a takedown notice, citing the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Thingiverse removed the files, and Valenty suddenly became an unwilling combatant in the next digital war: the fight over copying physical objects.


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5 Comments

  1. “You wouldn’t download a car.”

    This has been coming…

  2. Hope your photo illustration is not in violation.

    At one time, at least in the US, the purpose of law and government was to protect the small and weak from the big and powerful. Seems like the tables have turned.

  3. “the purpose of law and government was to protect the small and weak from the big and powerful”

    My thoughts exactly. The wee corporations are being bullied by the big bad consumer?

    Evolution doesn’t just occur in organic life. Some things should be protected and others definitely don’t need it.
    I think on the whole there needs to be a major shift and let the ideas (music, tech, even art) evolve alone in there market, The better the products will survive. This protectionism has bred a system that is sickly.

  4. Why the manufactured outrage against lawyers and “big business”? It’s technically possible (easy actually) to copy songs and share mp3s. Look at the can of worms that opened when people believed they had the right to access material without paying for it. And look at the draconian laws that came about because of a sizeable number of people who refused to pay for goods *they decided* should be free.

    This is just a physical version of the same argument.
    Yes, it is physically possible to recreate artistic works with a download file and a 3d printer.

    Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. I hope 3d printer owners show a little more restraint than file-sharing users did in the 90s and 00s else we’ll end up with a whole raft of confusing and unintelligible laws trying to outlaw 3d printers. Or sharing 3d object files.

    By all means, create something yourself and share it online. But the key point is *create something yourself* – don’t just rip off other people’s work and demand a right to share it online

  5. @Chris: If you actually look into this you’ll find that Valenty thought what he was creating was an original design inspired by other WH40k products. Games Workshop disagrees and feels that what he made was an unauthorized reproduction. This isn’t some black-and-white he downloaded Brittney Spears’ new album problem, it’s a legitimate grey area.

    (There’s also the trademark dispute which is, however, pretty clear-cut.)

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