December 2, 2012
The PC all over again?
Just as computers make it easy to copy music, 3D printers will soon allow easy copying of certain kinds of objects. The Economist warns of infringement issues — such as websites hosting 3D design being sued down the road as "havens of piracy".
... Michael Weinberg of Public Knowledge, an advocacy group in Washington, DC, fears that the fledgling technology could have its wings clipped by traditional manufacturers who see it as a threat to their livelihoods.
Because a 3D printer can make perfect replicas of many kinds of object, manufacturers may seek to brand it a “piracy machine” and demand additional measures to protect their traditional way of doing business. Mr Weinberg worries that they may behave rather like the record industry did when its own business model—based on selling pricey CD albums that few music fans wanted, instead of cheap single tracks they craved—came under attack from Napster and other file-swapping networks.
The danger is that America’s Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) will be used to stifle free expression, jeopardise fair use and impede competition—by, for example, blocking the distribution of blueprints for aftermarket replacement parts such as brake pads or toner cartridges. Draconian enforcement would reduce consumer choice and hamper the huge potential of 3D printing to spur innovation.
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