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Technology Your Rights Online

What Will Ubiquitous 3D Printing Do To IP Laws? 347

Posted by Soulskill
from the that-vase-is-cute,-snap-a-pic-to-we-can-print-it-later dept.
Lucas123 writes "With scanners able turn objects into printable files and peer-to-peer file sharing sites able to distribute product schematics, 3D printing could make intellectual property laws impossible or impractical to enforce. At the Inside 3D Printing Conference in San Jose this week, industry experts compared the rise of 3D printing to digital music and Napster. Private equity consultant Peer Munck noted that once users start sharing CAD files with product designs, manufacturers may be forced to find legal and legislative avenues to prevent infringement. But, he also pointed out that it's nearly impossible to keep consumers from printing whatever they want in the privacy of their homes. IP attorney John Hornick said, 'Everything will change when you can make anything. Future sales may be of designs and not products.'"
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What Will Ubiquitous 3D Printing Do To IP Laws?

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  • Impractical? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nospam007 (722110) * on Friday September 20, 2013 @12:52PM (#44905071)

    "3D printing could make intellectual property laws impossible or impractical to enforce."

    That won't stop the old boys from trying, like they are doing it with music and movies.

  • Re:Impractical? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MozeeToby (1163751) on Friday September 20, 2013 @12:59PM (#44905183)

    "You wouldn't download a car!"

    "Fuck you! I would if I could!"

    Seriously though, something's got to give here and soon. If we ever hit the point where most products can be reproduced essentially for free there is going to be a massive and thorough push to lock down the internet in ways the RIAA and MIAA can only dream of. Remember, those media companies are bit players in the grand scheme of things. The amount of money going into the IP protection lobby will sky rocket the day you can download the plans for a BMW off pirate bay.

  • by msobkow (48369) on Friday September 20, 2013 @01:01PM (#44905197) Homepage Journal

    Patent law specifically allows people to "make their own" based on the patented design. You aren't allowed to produce the items for sale or distribution, but you are allowed to make one for yourself.

    This is where patent law and 3D printers are really going to collide, because 3D printing makes it easy to make your own.

    One might be able to argue that the model used to do the printing is "distributing the design", but it's not illegal to distribute a patented design, only to produce the designed items for sale.

  • by Simon Brooke (45012) <stillyet@googlemail.com> on Friday September 20, 2013 @01:12PM (#44905355) Homepage Journal

    Designs, like MP3s, are digital data which is by nature infinitely reproducible. You can only build an industry on selling designs if you introduce legally sanctioned mechanisms of artificial scarcity. Which means a bunch of lawyers will get together calling themselves the Design Industry Association of America. They will argue for a tax on raw plastic, to be paid to them; and will sue anyone they think might have a 3D printer stashed away in the attic. Of course they won't actually have any connection with real designers any more than the Recording Industry Association of America has any connection with real musicians, but that doesn't matter because as everyone knows it's the lawyers who get to keep all the money. They are, after all, the only people (apart from bankers) who actually add value in this economy.

    Cynical? Moi?

  • Re:Impractical? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by davidannis (939047) on Friday September 20, 2013 @01:23PM (#44905517) Homepage

    If we ever hit the point where most products can be reproduced essentially for free

    No worries, the more complex the product the more complex the printer will need to be and the less efficient doing it on a small scale will be. We could all produce many things at home now but we don't. In part, it is more efficient to produce things in mass quantities. Then there is the up front cost. In part it is the complexity of producing certain components. There is a reason IC plants are so expensive; you can't print a chip without a lot complex machinery, a specific environment, etc. So, even if somebody comes up with a printer that can print a laptop it will have a large up front cost, require maintenance, and not be cheaper than paying a company that specializes in making laptops for many decades to come.

  • Re:Impractical? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by smpoole7 (1467717) on Friday September 20, 2013 @01:30PM (#44905623) Homepage

    > the more complex the product the more complex the printer will need to be and the less efficient doing it on a small scale will be

    There's some truth to that. I don't think you're going to have many individuals building a BMW (or even a Nissan Sentra) at home. A few hobbyists, maybe, not on a large scale.

    But what is GOING to happen ... count on it ... is that small, local "custom shops" are going to spring up. What if I could get a cross between a Sentra and a BMW? Or something that looks like a Ferrari, but with the safety and fuel mileage of a small Audi? Now the IP laws are actually *overlapping* between identified brands.

    What if I can go into a custom tailor's shop and have a suit made while I go have lunch? Just the way I want it, at a reasonable price, and without waiting for days.

    THIS is the future. We live in exciting times.

  • Re:Impractical? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by pixelpusher220 (529617) on Friday September 20, 2013 @01:38PM (#44905719)

    So really I don't see why we treat it as a new issue, because really it's not

    The new 'issue' is scale and barriers to entry. One is huge whereas it was infinitesimal before, the other was huge and is going rapidly down.

    This is what's known as 'Disruptive Innovation'.

  • Re:Impractical? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by internerdj (1319281) on Friday September 20, 2013 @01:49PM (#44905889)
    This is probably a bigger deal for the manufacturer than you actually being able to download and print the entire car.
  • Re:Impractical? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NatasRevol (731260) on Friday September 20, 2013 @02:35PM (#44906461) Journal

    Yeah, the whole point is that everyone becomes a manufacturer.

    The problem with this is that it will never be 'free' or close to free. Printing has never been cheap. And that was just ink and paper.

    Why does everyone think that printing in plastic/metal at a usable structural level isn't going to be orders of magnitude more expensive that buying something wholesale, for at least a generation? Like how it took almost 20 years for laser printers to become common at home.

  • Volume discounts (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sjbe (173966) on Friday September 20, 2013 @02:49PM (#44906599)

    If it became cheaper to build a car, then i would expect the prices of ready-built cars to drop accordingly.

    It will almost certainly never be cheaper to print your own than to buy one made by Ford or Toyota. The materials alone would cost more than the car in the quantities you could buy them in. Volume discounts when you are talking millions of units a year are enormous. The per-unit production cost to a big auto company for a comparable vehicle is going to be far, far lower than any one off, even if there is no profit motive attached. (Disclosure: I am an accountant)

    Unless you are talking about luxury cars, they aren't priced "artificially high". Even the most profitable auto makers (Porsche, Toyota, etc) only have profit margins in the high single digits. They make money by selling a LOT of vehicles but they don't generally make all that much on each one. A few luxury makes make a lot of money per vehicle (Ferrari, etc) but they don't and can't sell all that many at the price points they charge.

  • by Animats (122034) on Friday September 20, 2013 @02:53PM (#44906637) Homepage

    This keeps coming up on Slashdot, and it's mostly a non-issue. The only reason it's an issue now is that hobbyist 3D printers are so crappy that they're used mostly to produce copies of game and movie related decorative items.

    If you use one to make a dashboard knob for a '57 Chevy, there's no IP issue. Design patents are only for 14 years. You can't copyright a functional part, and most functional parts aren't original enough for a utility patent. There's a robust third-party auto parts industry because of this.

    When 3D printing in metal really gets going, it's going to be a Joe Sixpack thing. The same people who own welders will own 3D printers. If you do not presently own at least one power tool, you will probably not have a 3D printer.

  • Re:Impractical? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by AK Marc (707885) on Friday September 20, 2013 @03:15PM (#44906839)
    "What Will Ubiquitous 3D Printing Do To IP Laws?"

    Same thing they did with printing presses and CDs. Increase the laws, and turn contractual disputes into felonies so the government will work against the rights and desires of the citizens to enforce profit by law.

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