January 31, 2013
White Paper: What's the Deal with Copyright and 3D Printing?
White Paper: What's the Deal with Copyright and 3D Printing? by Michael Weinberg, January 2013.
... 3D printers do not take away intellectual property rights any more than computers grant them. But they do provide an opportunity for people to reexamine old assumptions about how the system works.
However, the copyright habit is a hard one to break. For many people exposed to 3D printing for the first time, the question that follows "is it real?," "how does it work?," and "how can I get one?" is "what about piracy?" And by piracy, they usually mean copyright infringement.
This whitepaper does not directly answer the piracy question. 3D printing is a tool and, like any tool, can be used for productive and not-so-productive purposes. Making unauthorized copies of physical objects protected by copyright is copyright infringement, whether those copies are made with a 3D printer or a whittling knife. It will happen.
Instead, this paper is an attempt to answer the unvoiced question that comes before concerns about piracy: is this obaject protected by copyright in the first place? After all, if there is no underlying copyright there can be no infringement of that right.
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