Tag Archives: law

Copyright Law, DMCA, and 3D Printing: A Detailed Whitepaper

Copyright and 3D Printing

Michael Weinberg has published an extensive whitepaper about the potential impact of Copyright Law on the emerging 3D printing industry.

3D printing provides an opportunity to change the way we think about the world around us. It merges the physical and the digital. People on opposite sides of the globe can collaborate on designing an object and print out identical prototypes every step of the way. Instead of purchasing one of a million identical objects built in a faraway factory, users can customize pre-designed objects and print them out at home. Just as computers have allowed us to become makers of movies, writers of articles, and creators of music, 3D printers allow everyone to become creators of things.

3D printing also provides an opportunity to reexamine the way we think about intellectual property. The direct connection that many people make between “digital” and “copyright” is largely the result of a historical accident. The kinds of things that were easiest to create and distribute with computers – movies, music, articles, photos – also happened to be the types of things that were protected by copyright. Furthermore, it happened to be that the way computers distribute things – by copying – was exactly the behavior that copyright regulated. As a result, copyright became an easy way to (at least attempt to) control what people were doing with computers.


In the whitepaper, Weinberg explains how copyright law and the DMCA will apply to 3D printing. He also describes the first case of copyright infringement: the Penrose triangle.

Penrose Triangle 3D Printing

The story of the first 3D printing-related copyright takedown request is a case in point. A designer named Ulrich Schwanitz created a 3D model for an optical illusion called a “Penrose triangle.” He uploaded his design to a website, Shapeways, that allows designers to sell 3D printed objects and invited the public to purchase a copy in the material of their choice. He also, for better or worse, both claimed that creating this design was a massive design achievement and refused to tell anyone else how he made the object.

As is often the case on the internet, shortly thereafter another designer, Thingiverse user artur83, uploaded a Penrose triangle with the comment:

Inspired by Ulrich Schwanitz’s ‘challenge’
about the “Impossible Penrose Triangle”
I thought I’d give it a try.
Looks pretty neat.

Unlike Shapeways, the website Thingiverse is built around sharing design files. As a result, because it was now up on Thingiverse anyone could download the design, understand how it worked, and print out their own version at home.

Schwanitz did not appreciate artur83′s behavior and sent a request to Thingiverse that the model be removed. [16] Thingiverse complied, but eventually public outcry convinced Schwanitz to dedicate his design to the public domain and retract the takedown request.

Weinberg continues in his whitepaper to describe the difference between useful and creative objects, licensable and non-licensable designs. He concludes that online communities will have a great amount of influence on how copyright policy is enacted.

Until there is better legal clarity, cultural clarity is the best way to protect the development of 3D printing.

Read the full whitepaper called What’s the Deal with Copyright and 3D Printing?.

National Gun Control Debate Threatens 3D Printing With Regulation

Cody Wilson Wiki Weapon 3D Printing

As the country recovers from the recent mass school shooting in Newtown, CT, and at the same time engages in a national debate around gun control, an unlikely topic is coming under fire: 3D printing.

Basically, there are some fringe gun activists who are exploiting the national attention to gun rights to get some publicity for their new ideas. One of these, Defense Distributed has been publishing their plans for a “Wiki Weapon.”

Those who read on3dprinting.com know the potentially massive positive contributions that 3D printing can make for our global society. Unfortunately, however, some legislators are now discussing regulations on 3D printing because they are afraid people will print high-capacity gun clips.

Steve Israel 3D Printing Guns

In the release below, Representative Steve Israel (D-NY) writes about his intentions to regulate 3D printing.

Rep. Israel to Introduce Legislation to Prohibit Homemade 3-D Printed Magazines Along with Plastic Guns

As Debate Stirs Around High-Capacity Gun Clips, Homemade Gun Enthusiasts Show Clip Can be Made At Home with 3-D Printer

Woodbury, NY—Today, Congressman Steve Israel (D-Huntington) called for a renewal of a revamped Undetectable Firearms Act that includes the ban of homemade, 3-D printed, plastic high-capacity magazines. The existing ban on plastic guns expires this year and does not clearly cover magazines. This past weekend, Defense Distributed, a group of homemade gun enthusiasts used a 3-D printer to print and test an ammunition magazine for an AR semi-automatic rifle, loading and reportedly firing 86 rounds from the 30-round clip. A video of them firing the weapon can be seen here.

Rep. Israel said, “Background checks and gun regulations will do little good if criminals can print high-capacity magazines at home. 3-D printing is a new technology that shows great promise, but also requires new guidelines. Law enforcement officials should have the power to stop keep homemade high-capacity magazines from proliferating with a Google search.”

Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said, “With every advancement in technology, there will be those who attempt to exploit it for unintended purposes. And in those situations, it is incumbent upon our elected officials and law enforcement agencies to take necessary action to protect the public. This common sense legislation closes a dangerous loophole in the law, and I strongly support Congressman Israel’s efforts in seeing these dangerous magazines banned.”

3-D printers work by printing layer upon layer of a material, usually thermoplastic, on top of each other in order to form a 3-D object. The revamped Undetectable Firearms Act that Rep. Israel wrote makes it illegal to manufacture, own, transport, buy, or sell any firearm or magazine that is homemade and not detectable by metal detector and/or does not present an accurate image when put through an x-ray machine. The reauthorization would extend the life of the bill for another 10 years from the date of enactment.


Steve Israel photo by Third Way used under Creative Commons license.