So, What is the Deal with Copyright and 3D Printing?

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Today Public Knowledge is happy to announce a new whitepaper: What's the Deal with Copyright and 3D Printing?  This paper is something of a follow up to our previous 3D printing whitepaper It Will Be Awesome if They Don't Screw It Up: 3D Printing, Intellectual Property, and the Fight Over the Next Great Disruptive Technology.  Unlike It Will Be Awesome, which focused on the broad connection between intellectual property law and 3D printing, What's the Deal? takes a deeper dive into the relationship between copyright and 3D printing.

A lot has changed since we released It Will Be Awesome.  News outlets have discovered 3D printing.  Rightsholders are issuing takedown notices.  And Congress has started to take a look.  At the same time, a lot has stayed the same.  People are continuing to innovate to make home 3D printers better. Creators are pushing the limits as they design even more intricate 3D printed objects.  And we are beginning to see the beginnings of physical remix artists.

But throughout this, people seem to keep coming back to copyright.  As we note in the paper, part of this is a result of years of conditioning.  Years of creating music, movies, and articles on computers have trained us all to automatically associate “digital” with “copyright,” and “disruptive digital” with “potential copyright problem.”  But one of the gifts of 3D printing is that it brings digital into the physical world, where its connection to copyright is weaker.  While this fraying may very well lead us to a new age of innovation, first we will need to retrain ourselves to stop assuming that everything is protected by copyright.

Of course, the first step in understanding what is not protected by copyright is recognizing what is protected by copyright.  What's the Deal? is designed to help mark those boundaries and draw focus to the hard – and easy – questions that the boundaries raise.  Like It Will Be Awesome, What's the Deal? is intended more as a conversation starter than a final word.  Hopefully it will be a useful resource to the rapidly growing 3D printing community.



Two other quick programming notes about the paper.  First, like It Will Be Awesome, we are releasing What's the Deal? as a free PDF download and make it available in html.  However, we are also experimenting with other distribution methods.  If you prefer your whitepapers in ebook form, you can purchase both It Will Be Awesome and What's the Deal? from Amazon's Kindle store.  We're not ashamed to say that that this experiment was inspired by Ars Technica's handling of John Siracusa's OS X reviews, and we are curious to see how it goes.

Second, you may notice a new logo on the front page of the whitepaper.  What's the Deal? is the first whitepaper released under the auspices of Public Knowledge's Institute for Emerging Innovation.  Our goal is to make IEI Public Knowledge's home for some of our most future-oriented work.  While Public Knowledge will still focus on advocating for consumers on important technology and communications policy issues today, IEI will be the home for the whitepapers, conferences, and other events that try to anticipate the issues that will be important tomorrow.

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