It’s still a problem that keeps companies awake at night: the difficult marriage of ‘3D printing’ and the ‘copyright law’. Do we need any company at all in a world where we could print out almost everything? Potentially, we could as well just copy a Disney figurine as a 3D model and print it out on our personal 3D printer. But wouldn’t that be as illegal as downloading a Torrent from a pop album? Well, to cut a long story short: what a lot of people don’t know is that there is already a solution to the big copyright problem.
In a recent article by EuroNews, Julie Samuels, senior staff lawyer at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, addresses the current problem with the copyright law: “The state of the laws and then the people who are trying to tighten up copyright law and in some instances tighten up patent law too, those efforts to tighten the laws would impact 3D printing. They would make it harder for people to print things at home, they would make it harder for more people to make new 3D printers and come up with new 3D printing technology.”
In the same article, founder of 3Dplus me and consultant to Disney Cyndi Tetro says it’s most of all a problem due to fear by big brands: “Companies are always worried about losing their designs and you’re always walking this fine line of how you embrace what’s happening in the open-source and the fan communities and how you protect your brand.” And she is right, as giant companies such as Disney could lose a lot of money if people would print out all their Disney figures themselves instead of buying them from Disney.
Or not? Is there a way for people to print out 3D print files from different designers in a legal way? If we must believe Californian company Authentise, then there sure is. This company uses an approach to 3D printing which is similar to Spotify’s approach to pop music or Netflix’s approach to movies and series. It makes it impossible for customers to store and share 3D print files from companies. This means brands such as Disney could offer their 3D print files online, after which users can download them and get their objects printed on their own 3D printer. After this printing process no file will remain to be shared. This means in a future world big companies might more and more implement a 3D files service instead of selling actual objects in stores.
Authentise now works together with 3D printing marketplace 3DLT in order to structure the website’s system. 3DLT is an online marketplace where designers can sell-made their 3D models. Authentise helps 3DLT to turn their 3D files into streaming files, so they can’t be shared online illegally. And they are fully right, because when someone works on a relevant product, then he or she needs to get paid for that by the ones who are using it. The illegally downloading era lies behind us, and streaming services are the present – and they are promising for the future.
And the system is only becoming bigger and bigger, as 3DLT is currently working together with giant online store Amazon. Last month, 50 3D print models from 3DLT were added to Amazon’s stock. But so it goes, there’s still room for improvement. Zach Walton on WebProNews thinks this current service is “a little restrictive compared to other 3D print-on-demand services”. He says: “With 3DLT, you can only buy certain designs through Amazon. Other competitors – like Shapeways – allow you to design your own products and have them print and ship the completed object to you. Amazon will need to offer a similar service if it wants to truly compete in the 3D print-on-demand market.”
If you think about that idea, then why shouldn’t big brands implement such a personalized service? Little companies such as Zazzy already do it. This Amsterdam-based company offers a service where customers can personalize their own 3D printed jewelry and they recently started working together with Dutch giant department store Hema, which could be seen as a sign that big brands start to get into the personalized 3D prints. Who follows?
All in all, 3D printing shouldn’t be looked at as something frightening, but as a way for normal people to become designers, and for designers to easier sell their objects online.
Credits image: Anna Cervova.