With all forms of technology, there is eventually a time when its impact on society becomes a political topic. 3D Printing appears to gained a level of notoriety worth discussing in the EU parliament. A recent working document shows that the EU is considering the various implications of 3D printing in areas such as intellectual property, eco-friendliness, employment and medicine. The document may have a future impact on the legal aspects of 3D printing.
The report goes into the pros and cons of 3D printing and what it is generally used for. While it states that 3D printing is already having an impact on industries, it has a long way to go before the concerns hit a fever pitch. The document notes that any legislation dealing with 3D printing should act “without the law acting as a brake or a constraint” on the additive manufacturing industry or its users.
Still, the document discusses how 3D printers could raise certain concerns about ownership and liability. It outlines the lack of clarity in issues such as where the liability for damages lies if an object created with a 3D printer were to injure someone. It voices concern over the printing of weaponry and labour redundancy. Additionally, the document clarifies the chain of liability for 3D printing in health care. It states that patients would be covered by their insurance providers whereas 3D printing of medical goods would be decided between the parties, themselves.
The document goes into concerns such as those specified above with a range of examples. The two largest areas of concern are civil liability and intellectual property.
Solutions to Copyright Concerns
The report also states that the commission has made 3D printing a priority in terms of discussing new tech. While the working document discusses multiple areas, it allocates the bulk of its word count to IP concerns. This area raises common concerns about 3D printing and the legality of downloading physical objects. The core issue is that of users infringing on a company’s IP.
The working document makes clear that at this state 3D printing does not a dramatic threat to IP rights. Since the most common uses of 3D printing are not in the realm of manufacturing goods for sale, but rather prototyping, it is not that major and issue. However, they note that its growth could be a problem worth thinking about now. It provides a range of possible solutions for these issues within the document.
Among these safeguards, the parliament has looked into making files traceable and creating a reference database. Other safeguards include a legal limit on how many times a single object can be printed or imposing compensatory taxes.
It is worth noting that this is a problem that the private sector has also proposed solutions for in prior years. Companies like GROW have proposed the ability to patent and store designs while others propose hardware-based solutions. All parties are raising valid concerns, since IP rights are so easy to breach using the Internet. It will be interesting to see whether the regulatory power tilts towards private companies or average consumers.
The entire working document is available here, reported by Joëlle Bergeron.