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Copyright Drama Reaches 3D Printing World 258

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the can't-use-that-object dept.
jfruh writes "Stratasys, one of the world's biggest 3D printer manufacturers, routinely uses 3D-printed objects as displays for its booths at trade shows. The problem: It's been using objects designed by popular designer Asher Nahmias, whose creations are licensed under a noncommercial Creative Commons license — and he says Stratasys's use violates the licensing terms. This is just one example of how the nascent 3D printing industry is having to grapple with the IP implications of creating physical objects out of downloadable designs. Another important problem: IP law distinguishes between purely decorative and useful objects, but how should the digital files that provide a design for those objects be treated?" The models are copyrighted and licensed NC, but what about the resulting object? Precedent seems to imply that the resulting object cannot be controlled (e.g. the output of a GPLed program is not GPLed, so why should executing a program on a 3D printer be any different?).
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Copyright Drama Reaches 3D Printing World

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  • The cad files or what ever they are to the object as source code is to a binary.

    • Re:Like source code (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Tuesday July 23, 2013 @01:24AM (#44358411)

      "The cad files or what ever they are to the object as source code is to a binary."

      Quite. 3D printer instructions are nothing more than a form of CAD file, which is a copywritable, WRITTEN work.

      Items printed are no more than any other physical object made from a CAD drawing. You can't copyright the actual part (but you can get a design patent if it applies).

      There is nothing new here.

      • I dont really see the legal issue here.
        There are already lots of precedences. Knitting designs are one. Even though the pattern may be reproduced (the "program" that tells you how to make the sweater), actually reproducing a patented work is still not legal, regardless of how you obtained the means to reproduce it.

        While I'm not a US patent lawyer, I'm quite certain that infringement has nothing to do with the METHOD used to infringe on a patent or trademark. And lets face it, 3D printing is just a tool.

        Sure

        • by meza (414214)

          But as far as I can understand there was no patent of design patent involved, at least I can't find anything on patents.google.com for that guy. There was only the CC-NC copyright clause of the drawing.

        • by Immerman (2627577)

          Note that your first example involved patent law - something that has basically *nothing* to do with the copyright law, no matter how much as the misleading term "IP" tries to conflate them with each other and property law (another completely unrelated body of law). And I think you've got it backwards anyway - you can't redistribute the pattern itself without violating copyright law, but there's no restriction on distributing sweaters made according to the pattern.

          So yes, if they have a PATENT on the desig

      • An image file is nothing more the instructions to a graphics program of how to produce an image. It is the image that is copyrighted NOT the graphics file. That why re-encoding a file doesn't change its copyright. You might as well claim that the light emitting from your screen isn't the copyright image...

        IF you want to challenge this, you should seek the "recipe" route. US copyright does NOT allow recipes that are mere listings of ingredients to be copyrighted. Is an image/CAD/MP3 file not merely a listin

    • by Molochi (555357)

      Sculpture is copyrightable. Colt should get their AR-15 receiver on display as a work of art ASAP.

    • by Joce640k (829181)

      The cad files or what ever they are to the object as source code is to a binary.

      They're exploiting his work to promote their product. The "how" doesn't matter.

  • by HockeyPuck (141947) on Tuesday July 23, 2013 @12:12AM (#44358099)

    If someone put up NC licensed instructions for making a one of these designs, and I carved one out of a block of wood. Would I still be violating the terms?

    • by Xicor (2738029) on Tuesday July 23, 2013 @12:44AM (#44358257)
      only if you could make an exact replica with your skill and try to sell it. if you try to sell it as the original, it would be forgery. if you try to sell it as your own it would be copyright infringement
      • So the issue is the act of some kind of Barter? What if there was no Barter?
        • Then it would be as if you recorded a song and I decided to use it, without your consent, for my company's new ad campaign. That's the closest analogue I can think of to this situation.

          • by AK Marc (707885)
            A recent printing of the sheet music for Beethoven's 5th can't be copied or distributed without permission, presuming the printed work is copyrighted. However, the person that owns the copyright for the sheet music doesn't own the assembly of the notes. That belonged to Beethoven until the copyright ran out (pre-Mickey, it'll never happen again).
        • by jythie (914043)
          In this specific case the person released their design under a license that does not allow for, as you say, barter. So no commercial usage, no problem.
      • by ackthpt (218170)

        only if you could make an exact replica with your skill and try to sell it. if you try to sell it as the original, it would be forgery. if you try to sell it as your own it would be copyright infringement

        How about if I printed an object, then died and didn't leave my heirs any instruction on disposition of the object and they sold it at my estate sale -- ?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by anubi (640541)
      Yeah, you probably would.

      Think if you were handy with a paint brush and drew Disney's copyrighted characters on a T-shirt and tried to sell them, I bet you will receive a letter from a Disney lawyer.

      I am aware of one person who was a Disney fan and drew Lion King characters on her own shirt - no money or sales involved - and she was denied admission to Disneyland on the basis of what she had drawn on her own shirt with her own hand for her own enjoyment. ( It was damn good work if I say so myself - not
      • by Richy_T (111409)

        At the point you decide you want to rip off someone else's movie but don't want to pay for it.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kimba_the_White_Lion [wikipedia.org]

      • "Think if you were handy with a paint brush and drew Disney's copyrighted characters on a T-shirt and tried to sell them, I bet you will receive a letter from a Disney lawyer."

        Disney is probably the worst possible example you could use here. They were instrumental in getting the unreasonable extension of copyrights passed, and even then don't follow the laws they helped establish.

    • Yes, you would. The difference hear is that 3D printing opens up a whole market for these devices where only a few people can or willing to carve stuff out of wood. Those that do are low enough to fly under the radar sort of speak. So it's not an issue now.

      • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Tuesday July 23, 2013 @01:39AM (#44358483)

        "Yes, you would. The difference hear is that 3D printing opens up a whole market for these devices where only a few people can or willing to carve stuff out of wood. Those that do are low enough to fly under the radar sort of speak. So it's not an issue now."

        That is not a valid comparison. You aren't manually squirting plastic out of a tube and shaping it, either.

        It is much more like making a part with a CNC machine.

        See my comment further up about what laws cover what. This general issue has already been tackled by the courts (a long time ago, actually), and it is pretty well settled.

    • by Tom (822)

      Yes, you would. Depending on your jurisdiction, though, as long as you don't publicly perform or exhibit it, or try to sell it etc., you would likely fall into one of the many exceptions to copyright law.

    • If someone put up NC licensed instructions for making a one of these designs, and I carved one out of a block of wood. Would I still be violating the terms?

      The people who purchased the printers and then printed those copyrighted designs weren't violating the designer's copyright. The company which included his copyrighted designs for sale with their commercial product (the printer) were violating copyright. The problem is the company distributing copyrighted (actually copyleft) designs commercially without permission, and specifically against the CC-NC licence being used.

      Example: Suppose I run a How-To website that instructs people how to... let's say, build c

  • No... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Tyler Eaves (344284) on Tuesday July 23, 2013 @12:13AM (#44358107)

    What's copyrighted is the idea, not the physical manifestation or "input". If you take a downloaded copy of HotSummerBlockbuster 3.0 and burn it to a DVD, that DVD is still covered by copyright. Similarly, you couldn't download a copyrighted song, have vinyl plates cut from it, press records, and sell those. It is the creative work itself that is covered by copyright.

    • by mysidia (191772)

      What's copyrighted is the idea, not the physical manifestation or "input".

      No... you cannot copyright an idea. What gets copyrighted is the creative expression, once you have fixed it in a tangible form.

      Copyright does not restrict the use of the tangible form. It restricts the rights of other people to make copies of that creative expression on their own tangible form, and prepare derivative works, or redistribute.

      The digital files created by a designer would most certainly involve some c

      • It's more nuanced than that. You can copyright the work of art AND copyright the data files used to replicate that art, and allow the licensed production of the work with the data files. The summary writer wasn't even close to being correct when he hypothesized:

        Precedent seems to imply that the resulting object cannot be controlled (e.g. the output of a GPLed program is not GPLed, so why should executing a program on a 3D printer be any different?).

        Disregard the fact that the work is actually licensed as N

    • by c0lo (1497653)

      What's copyrighted is the idea, not the physical manifestation or "input".

      Incorrect. What you copyright is the form of an expression.
      If the ideas would be copyrightable, we as a society would be in a very big trouble (given that ideas are 5 cents a dozen, the implementation it what matters).

      Take as an example the "API is not copyrightable" ruling in "Oracle vs Google over Java API" and try to work out what would be the impact if "it's the idea that matters".
      Take "social networking" as another example: would you be happy to socialize on MySpace instead of being able to choose wha

    • by Tom (822)

      What's copyrighted is the idea, not the physical manifestation or "input".

      You can not copyright ideas. You copyright works, i.e. specific implementations of ideas.

      The rest of your comment is spot on.

    • If you take a downloaded copy of HotSummerBlockbuster 3.0 and burn it to a DVD, that DVD is still covered by copyright.

      No, the DVD doesn't become "copyrighted" like that. It's content will be, yes, but the entirety isn't.

      Similarly, you couldn't download a copyrighted song, have vinyl plates cut from it, press records, and sell those.

      Of course, the songs as presented are copyrighted. But you're comparing apples and oranges here: the CAD-files used to create 3D-objects are similar to notes used to create songs -- the creator of the notes does not own copyrights to the actual recordings made from those notes.

    • You know that after you watch a movie or hear a song, there is a copy of it in your own head. It's how you are able to do things like sing "happy birthday" without a cue card.

      Similarly, you couldn't download a copyrighted song, have vinyl plates cut from it, press records, and sell those.

      Actually you are in violation of law for downloading the song, the rest doesn't matter. It's copyright, not copy-and-then-sell-right. I want people to start going to trial for having copies in their brain. Actually I want copyright law to go to hell, it's an anachronism from the past that should have never existed.

  • The legal system sits firmly a decade behind technology.

    .
    Maybe the discussion needs to be whether or not technology advancement needs to be slowed down in order for civilasation to keep up with the changes......

    • by fnj (64210)

      What I think is that society (which I think is what you mean by civilization) and its rickety legal system can go fuck itself it it can't keep up. Human creativity and innovation are not going to halt because it can't keep up. Society couldn't enforce it. It would be evil and people who love freedom and love creating things would fight it and they would win.

    • by Goaway (82658)

      The legal system has been able to handle this for many decades before 3D printers were ever created. It's not like 3D printers are the first machines to ever create objects from a digital description.

  • WTF? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by viperidaenz (2515578) on Tuesday July 23, 2013 @12:20AM (#44358149)

    Precedent seems to imply that the resulting object cannot be controlled

    So the input to the projector at the movie theatre is copyrighted, but the output projected on screen isn't?
    Therefore it should be legal for me to record it on my cellphone and post it on youtube. or post 15 second bits recorded on a cellphone to instragram [theage.com.au]

  • by girlintraining (1395911) on Tuesday July 23, 2013 @12:21AM (#44358159)

    IP law distinguishes between purely decorative and useful objects, but how should the digital files that provide a design for those objects be treated?"

    Corporations: Treat possession of them as major criminal activity. Outlaw them. Nuke it from orbit, only way to be sure.

    Academics: We should probably make a fair use exception, so anyone can do it for personal use, or if its a parody work... you know, non-commercial.

    Slashdotters: Screw profits! Digital blue prints want to be freeeeeeeee!

    Richard Stallman: We should join our hands together and sing songs, using copyright against them! By creating free alternatives to commercial products without restriction, we can build a stronger community.

    Me: Until it can print a cat, the internet won't care.

    • by c0lo (1497653)

      Richard Stallman: We should join our hands together and sing songs, using copyright against them!

      Be careful what you sing, though. The interpretation of music is regulated by the copyright law, even when that music is only expressed in the form of music sheet. For instance, don't sing "Happy birthday to you" in public until the matter of its copyright is not settled [reuters.com], otherwise you may be liable to pay royalties.

      Slashdotters: Screw profits! Digital blue prints want to be freeeeeeeee!

      By an unfortunate coincidence, blue-prints and music sheets are both... a design for an artistic form of expression.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 23, 2013 @12:25AM (#44358171)

    Surely this has already been covered by existing laws about patterns, etc?

  • When the patent trolls begin crapping all over 3d printing it will be only the behemoths and shell "intellectual property" companies who control it..like every f*cking thing else of any scale.


    /end grumpy rant
  • by dbc (135354) on Tuesday July 23, 2013 @01:02AM (#44358327)

    OK,what about the phrase "... with a 3D printer" makes this hard for people to understand? Designers copyright and/or get design patents (which are different from functional (is that the right word?) patents) on their designs. They then license those designs as theys see fit. The licensee's manufacture them, and some of the artifacts end up at Target or Macy's. There is nothing about manufacturing with a 3D printer that changes the idea of a copyrighted/patented design that needs to be licensed in order to manufacture it.

    Stratasys screwed up, pure and simple. They manufactured a design without a license. Perhaps they misunderstand CC licenses. Perhaps they are jerks.

    In the end, there is nothing new here. Some designs have licenses. Some companies are run by people that are clueless and/or jerks.

    The phrase "... with a 3D printer" is simply newshead velcro -- people use it to get a story published. Don't let those people weaken your mind.

    • by Urkki (668283)

      Mod points, where are you? I need you!

    • Perhaps they misunderstand CC licenses.

      Maybe, maybe not. They were not selling the items. The items were on public display and there was no charge for viewing. The items were merely made by the printer they were selling. The CC license defines commercial use as "in any manner that is primarily intended for or directed toward commercial advantage or private monetary compensation." One could argue there is no commercial advantage since other 3D printers could create the same items, that the items merely familiarizes the viewer with what is possibl

      • You don't think promotional or advertising use amounts to commercial advantage?

        Why are they doing it then, for teh lulz?

        • by thoromyr (673646)

          the point was that you may not be understanding the license correctly. That is becoming increasingly apparently. The suggestion about design patents seems spot on to me, except that the poster then seemed to think that the designer *had* aquired a design patent. Copyright, by law, is inherent at the time of creation. Patents are not: they must be applied for. Creating stuff is fun. Posting it is great for the ego. Filing patents is not fun. It is work and requires money. Either pay the money for a design pa

    • by DRJlaw (946416)

      Designers copyright... their designs. They then license those designs as theys see fit. The licensee's manufacture them, and some of the artifacts end up at Target or Macy's. There is nothing about manufacturing with a 3D printer that changes the idea of a copyrighted/patented design that needs to be licensed in order to manufacture it.

      You've forgotten to layer on the fact that the designer has offered a general license to manufacture copies of the design so long as it is for non-commercial purposes -- a "

  • The reverse also happens - you can get DMCA takedowns on objects to print. And this happened years ago.

    http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2011/04/the-next-napster-copyright-questions-as-3d-printing-comes-of-age/ [arstechnica.com]

    What we're seeing is basically the same thing with software patents - immense twisting of IP laws to cope with stuff that really never occurred before.

    After all, you used copyright for stuff you wrote, and that stuff you wrote was typically a book, a play, music, whatever, meant to be enjoyed by othe

    • by mlts (1038732) *

      I just fear that if IP laws get revised, they will be done in a way that is extremely hostile to the average person. Every time there is a revision of IP laws, it does nothing to help the average user out.

      I would not be surprised if governments (be it European ones, the US, or others) forced all 3D printers to disallow printing of anything but signed files (where the files have to be approved by a third party to make sure they can't be used as lower receivers or anything the local politcos don't like), rec

    • by tftp (111690)

      This is one of major obstacles to the transition from the current system to the future system of robotic factories and lazy consumers who don't need to work. (That is the utopian world of communism.)

      The transition depends on factory owners - who invested money - to give up their property, including the IP. But what motive would they have to do that? Wouldn't they want to be owners of the world? Who will make them surrender their wealth? They are the government, for all practical reasons.

  • Precedent seems to imply that the resulting object cannot be controlled (e.g. the output of a GPLed program is not GPLed, so why should executing a program on a 3D printer be any different?)

    What if the program is a quine [wikipedia.org]?

  • I think this is only going to get worse as things improve. When all you can make are low quality, tiny objects, of 1 (maybe 2 or 3) colours then nobody really cares too much if you copy their designs as you can't do anything terribly useful with them. But as the price comes down meaning they become more widely accessible, and the quality and size of output improves I believe companies and individuals will quickly become very interested in lobbying for IP laws against these printers.

    Not that I want those l

  • by raymorris (2726007) on Tuesday July 23, 2013 @01:32AM (#44358445)
    A pdf file is a program, written in the postscript language, directing a 2D printer to create some 2D object. I can't print copies of someone's book and sell them without permission based on the argument that the book is the output of the PDF program.

    I don't see how adding an extra D changes that. Some people, probably including Stallman, would say that authors (and programmers) SHOULD work for free, giving their stuff away. Maybe so. That doesn't mean they DO. This particular designer gave away his work to people who wanted to use it for non-commercial purposes. Good for him. He didn't give his work free to companies to use commercially. If you're going to make a living from my work, I get a cut, he decided. Fine, that's his decision.
  • by Animats (122034) on Tuesday July 23, 2013 @01:54AM (#44358553) Homepage

    This isn't a new area of law. It's been litigated thoroughly by the third-party auto parts industry, which routinely makes copies of auto parts. Some auto companies have applied for design patents on some body parts, but to get a design patent, there has to be a significant difference over any other existing object. There are maybe 400 auto part design patents a year, and design patents are only good for 14 years.

    It's different for decorative objects. Those can be copyrighted. But functional parts, no.

    Can a scan of a real-world object be copyrighted when the scanned object is not? Not in the US. See Meshwerks vs. Toyota. [uscourts.gov] A scan is not a creative work. It doesn't matter that it takes effort to create, and work to clean up. It's still not a creative work. The court followed the same line of reasoning as in Bridgeman vs. Corel, which established that photos of public domain 2D pictures cannot be copyrighted. (Despite much grumbling from the museum community, that decision has held up. Wikipedia relies on that. The National Portrait Gallery (UK) once threatened to sue Wikipedia. Wikipedia didn't back down. The National Portrait Gallery did.) That decision in turn relied on the famous Supreme Court case Feist vs. Rural Telephone, which established that phone books are not copyrightable as a constitutional matter. "The threshold for originality is low, but it exists". That's why everybody has phone book data, map data, and similar databases now.

    Once consumer-grade 3D printers get good enough that they're used for something more than turning out plastic game pieces, this problem will decrease.

  • The printed object itself may be unbound from copyright violation, but if the object is deemed art and the motion of the printer is considered the performance of said art, then will we inevitably end up with something like a Spotify for 3D printing? This would classify the live printing of the object as a violation.

  • by Tom (822)

    Precedent seems to imply that the resulting object cannot be controlled (e.g. the output of a GPLed program is not GPLed, so why should executing a program on a 3D printer be any different?).

    Don't you hate it when those "power-users" in your company talk about computers? Does it make you cringe when they mix and abuse tech terms that make them look smart to the other users who have no idea what they're talking about, but to you, a real techie, it just hurts you inside?

    Guess what, it's the same with law. Those who know about the law cringe when they hear those crappy pseudo-smart comments from the geeks and nerds who think they got it, but they don't.

    The output of a software does not fall under

  • We saw this coming a mile away - so did the Makerbot guy who sold out to Stratasys.

    Not sure of the time of death for 3D printing, but the locale will be the Rocket Docket of East Texas.

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