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3D printing’s impact on copyright

November 16, 2011

Times of India discusses uncertain copyright developments.

The Times of India’s Nick Bilton has published an article discussing the possible ramifications on copyright laws 3D printing may have.

Bilton makes reference to a recent development with Thomas Lombardi, a contributor to website Thingiverse, who uploaded free 3D printer blueprints for a “Lucky Charms Cereal Sifter”, a sieve that allows the user to separate the cereal and marshmallow components of Lucky Charms cereal which was manufactured by a competing website and sold for $30 (€22).

Speaking with Michael Weinberg, a senior staff attorney with Public Knowledge, a Washington digital advocacy group, who commented: “Copyright doesn’t necessarily protect useful things. If an object is purely aesthetic it will be protected by copyright, but if the object does something, it is not the kind of thing that can be protected.”

Commenting on an example Bilton gave of a 3D printer copying an existing mug design “if you took that mug and went to a pottery class and remade it, would you be asking me the same questions about breaking a copyright law? No.”

A recent research paper from the Institute for the Future in Palo Alto, California entitled “The Future of Open Fabrication” called 3D printing “manufacturing’s Big Bang”, stating jobs in manufacturing and shipping products may be at risk from companies setting up 3D printing workspaces in stores to print units rather than ship them out.

Categories : Products and Technology

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