Posts by Michael Weinberg

What does it mean to open source a resin?

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Yesterday, Autodesk announced that it was open sourcing one of the resins for its spark 3D printer. Autodesk says that they are releasing the recipe under a Creative Commons attribution-share alike license, and invited the community to remix, improve, and build upon it as they saw fit. This decision is commendable on the part of Autodesk, but what does it actually mean to open source 3D printing resin?

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Licensing Your 3D Printed Stuff: A 3D Printing Whitepaper

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Today we’re happy to announce our newest 3D printing whitepaper Licensing Your 3D Printed Stuff. Today’s paper follows in the footsteps of 2010’s It Will Be Awesome If They Don’t Screw It Up: 3D Printing, Intellectual Property, and the Next Great Disruptive Technology and 2013’s What’s the Deal with Copyright and 3D Printing?. Like the previous papers, Licensing Your 3D Printed Stuff examines the intersection between 3D printing and intellectual property. However, Licensing Your 3D Printed Stuff takes a more practical, application-based approach to the problems.

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3D/DC is Back – 3D Printers are Coming to DC April 29!

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We are excited to announce that the world of 3D printing is coming back to Washington, DC this spring. On April 29th we will be holding 3D/DC 2015, our fourth (mostly) annual bacchanalia of 3D printing and policy. If we do say so ourselves, this is the premiere 3D printing policy event of the year, bringing together the 3D printing world and the world of policy. You should come.

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What Happens Now With Net Neutrality?

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Today is a great day for the Open Internet. The FCC voted to create strong net neutrality rules grounded in robust legal authority. That vote, and those rules, are the culmination of over a decade of hard work and an especially vigorous year by a large and diverse coalition demanding robust Open Internet protections. We’re still waiting for the details, but as of now there is every reason to view this vote as a watershed moment in the history of net neutrality. At a time like this, it is important to take a moment and appreciate the magnitude of this accomplishment.

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Doubling Down on Copyfraud: You Don’t Need Permission to 3D Scan 500 Year Old Sculptures

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Last week, we wrote about Augustana College (SD)’s demand that 3D scans of its copy of Michelangelo’s Moses be taken down from the internet. To justify this request, Augustana cited vague (and, it should be noted, nonexistent) copyright concerns. As a result of its ridiculous assertion of a copyright interest in a copy of a 500-year-old sculpture, Augustana deprived the public of 3D scans of this public domain work.

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Cultural Institutions Behaving Badly: Stupid Reactions to 3D Scanning

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Late last year we highlighted the fantastic work that the Cooper Hewitt Museum is doing to set an example for how museums and other cultural institutions can make high quality 3D scans available to the public. Unfortunately, just as long summer days must turn to cold winter nights, we now have an example of a different cultural institution doing a fantastic job of setting an example of how not to handle the same types of issues.

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3DP IP Wars Update: Formlabs to pay 3D Systems sales royalties

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Earlier this week news broke that the long running patent infringement lawsuit between 3D Systems and Formlabs is over. The two sides settled, agreeing to dismiss all claims and counterclaims and for each side to pay its own legal costs. Additionally, Formlabs will pay 3D Systems an 8% royalty on Formlabs sales. This development brings to an end one of the great legal dramas of the early desktop 3D printing era. However, some questions remain.

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Cooper Hewitt Shows How To Share 3D Scan Data Right

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Recently, the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum released detailed 3D scan data for its home. And it has a pretty nice home. The museum, which is located in Manhattan and is dedicated to historic and contemporary design, is housed in the former mansion of Andrew Carnegie. Built around the turn of the last century when Carnegie was arguably the richest man in the world, the mansion itself makes Cooper Hewitt worth the visit. Now, you can just download the files and visit the mansion from the comfort of your sofa.

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Where Net Neutrality and Government Copyright Policies Come Together

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As you probably noticed, we’ve been doing a lot of writing about net neutrality recently. You may also have noticed that we’ve been doing a lot of writing about how works created by the U.S. Government are not eligible for copyright protection and in the public domain. Well hold on to your hats, because this video brings those two things together.

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Putting the Open Internet Transparency Rule to the Test

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Today Public Knowledge sent letters to AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon as the first step in the process of filing open internet complaints against each of them at the FCC. The letters address violations of the FCC’s transparency requirements, which are the only part of the open internet rules that survived court challenge.

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US Legal Lessons from Canada’s First STL IP Infringement Case

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Last month, 3Dprintler.com ran a blog post about “Canada’s First STL IP Infringement Case.” I can’t say if it was the first STL infringement case in Canada, or even if there was any infringement under Canadian law. However, this case provides a good opportunity to examine some of the principles related to digital files, 3D printing, and intellectual property from a U.S. legal perspective. At Public Knowledge I’ve been writing about these topics for years.

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How The FCC’s Proposed Fast Lanes Would Actually Work

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Yesterday, the FCC released its proposed open internet (net neutrality) rules. Although both Chairman Wheeler and the proposal extensively discuss the problems that occur when ISPs get to choose winners and losers online, the proposed rules still create fast lanes and slow lanes on the internet. Read on to see just how these fast lanes and slow lanes would work.

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Toward Thingiverse.gov?

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Last month during Sunshine Week, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy released a memorandum directing federal agencies to develop a plan in the next six months to make their scientific collections more available to the public. This is a great move on its own – federal agencies collect all sorts of interesting information on behalf of the American people, and it is important to make that information as easy to access as possible. But more specifically, it could be a first step toward creating a central repository of all of the government’s 3D scans. And the government has a lot of things to be scanned.

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Here is How to Get Open Internet Rules Right

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Today Public Knowledge, joined by our allies at Common Cause, submitted comments in the FCC’s Open Internet proceeding. In the comments we made clear that the Commission must move quickly to establish strong, enforceable open internet rules that can withstand the inevitable court challenge. Today’s comments flow from the DC Circuit’s decision in January to overturn the Open Internet rules that the FCC put in place in 2010. In the wake of this decision, the FCC put out a Public Notice essentially asking the public what they should do. These comments are our answer. I urge you to take a look at them in their entirety, but just in case you are in a rush on this Friday afternoon, here are some of the high-level points.

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AT&T’s New Sponsored Data Scheme is a Tremendous Loss for All of Us

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AT&T announced a new “sponsored data” scheme that lets content creators buy their way around the company’s data caps. It’s bad news for everyone—but AT&T.


Yesterday AT&T announced a new “sponsored data” scheme, offering content creators a way to buy their way around the data caps that AT&T imposes on its subscribers.  Although AT&T touted it as a “win-win for customers and businesses”, it is actually just a win for AT&T.  This plan is a tremendous loss for everyone else.

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Afinia Responds to Stratasys: Your Patents Are Invalid and Your Threats Are Anticompetitive

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Afinia pushes back in a lawsuit that could impact the entire desktop 3D printing industry.


In November, the 3D printing company Stratasys sued another 3D printing company Microboards Technology, LLC (which distributes the popular Afinia desktop 3D printer).  Beyond being the second example of one of the older commercial/industrial-oriented 3D printing companies suing the new breed of desktop competitors, this lawsuit was interesting because held out the potential that just about every desktop 3D printer infringed on Stratasys’ patents.  If this turned out to be true, it would be a big deal.

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Undetectable Firearms Law Passes Without 3D Printing

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3D printing was left out of the Undetectable Firearms Act, but the discussion about 3D printed guns raises broader concerns about how well lawmakers understand making things at home.


Yesterday the Senate passed an extension of the Undetectable Firearms Act.  While this act is mostly about what its name suggests – undetectable firearms – discussion about the bill has managed to bring in 3D printing.  As an organization, Public Knowledge takes no positions on gun policy.  Therefore we would not normally have anything to say about a gun-related bill.  But Public Knowledge is involved in 3D printing policy.  With the passage of this extension in both the Senate and last week in the House, now is a good time to explain what has lead us to this point, what is happening now, and how it all impacts 3D printing.

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PK In The Know Podcast: 3D Printing Guns and Lawsuits, Patent Reform, and Net Neutrality

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On today’s podcast we discuss 3D printed guns and patent lawsuits, patent reform in Congress, and mixed signals on net neutrality from the new FCC Chairman.

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes here.
Subscribe to the podcast via the .xml here.
Click here to download the file for this week's podcast directly.

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Did the FCC Chairman Just Endorse a Pay-for-Play Internet Fast Lane?

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Chairman Wheeler endorsed both two-sided markets and net neutrality. There seems to be a conflict.


Yesterday, new FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler delivered his first formal public address.  After a prepared speech that explained his regulatory approach, he moved to a Q&A session.  In that session, he appeared to endorse the opposite of net neutrality: allowing ISPs to charge websites and services in order to reach that ISP’s subscribers.   In other words, giving ISPs the power to pick winners and losers online. This endorsement was all the more unexpected because it followed his explicit endorsement of "net neutrality" and a speech that touted the FCC's role in protecting the public interest.  What is going on here?

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3D Printing, Matisse, and the Arbitrariness of Copyright Terms

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This sculpture is in the public domain in the US but not in France. Why?


Artist Cosmo Wenman has been making something of a splash lately by taking detailed 3D scans of sculptures and then re-printing them with a 3D printer and posting them for others on Thingiverse.  But one of the side effects of his project is to throw some light on the fundamental arbitrariness of copyright terms.

From a copyright standpoint, scanning sculptures is no different then copying them in any other way.  If the sculpture is still protected by copyright, you probably need permission to make a copy.  If the sculpture is in the public domain, you can copy (and modify) it to your heart’s content.

This means that determining if a work is in the public domain plays a big part in Wenman’s work.  And that has brought him face to face with the madness that is copyright terms.

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The GIFerator: Harnessing the Power of Open to Make Animated GIFs

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We made an animated GIF photo booth and now you can too.


Last week at our annual IP3 Awards, we debuted a new addition to the Public Knowledge family: the GIFerator.  Basically, it was a photobooth that let attendees make their own animated GIFs and publish them to the internet.  We designed the GIFerator with openness in mind and on top of open technologies, so this blog post is intended to share our process and document it well enough for you to set up your own.

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PK In The Know Podcast: Government Shutdown, PK IP3, Charging for Public Artwork, DMCA Safe Harbor

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On this week's podcast we recap the government shutdown, the PK IP3 Awards, charging admission for viewing public artwork and DMCA safe harbor cases. Listen to Podcast

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes here.
Subscribe to the podcast via the .xml here.
Click here to download the file for this week's podcast directly.

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What is Going on With Usage Restrictions on Media from Congress and the White House?

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The White House and Congress are trying to restrict use of public domain photos and videos.


As two of the three branches of the US government, Congress and the Administration have key roles in creating and enforcing our copyright law.  So why are they trying to restrict what people do with public domain material?
 
Believe it or not, copyright law actually has a specific section addressing the Federal Government’s ability to get a copyright. The section is pretty straightforward: the Federal Government does not get copyright on the works that it produces.  You don’t need to be a lawyer to understand the first part of 17 U.S.C. § 105:

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Admitting 5 Things About Broadband

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Expanding on The Switch's 5 things that  neither side of the broadband debate wants to admit.


Over at The Switch today, Timothy B. Lee offered his list of 5 things neither side of the broadband debate wants to admit.  His list strikes me as mostly reasonable, although I think that you could find at least one side of the debate to endorse most of them.  In any case, I wanted to take a moment to add a bit of color to the list, to try and give you a sense of how we think about some of these things.  Here are Lee’s things, followed by a bit of commentary.

1.    American wireless service is working pretty well.

Especially when compared to the wired broadband market, this statement is fairly accurate.  We have four nationwide carriers and some decisions (like offering earlier upgrades) by one carrier clearly push the other carriers to match.

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Announcing Our New Artist in Residence!

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Elisa Kreisinger is our new Artist in Residence!


Back in May we, along with our partners at Eyebeam, made an announcement: we were looking for an artist for our new artists in residency program. As we said at the time, the goal of the residency program would be to make policy issues more compelling to the public through the use of the technology that we advocate for every day.  We got a huge number of really fantastic applications, and today we’re excited to announce that we managed to narrow it down to one.

Elisa Kreisinger is our inaugural artist in residence.  Elisa is a well-known video remix artist and activist.  She will be spending some time here in DC going deeper into the issues at Public Knowledge and some time in New York immersed in the Eyebeam community finding ways to make her project even more interesting. 

We’ll be documenting Elisa’s process over the course of the residency but in the meantime we're just excited to set her free on the world of technology policy.

Original image by Elisa Kreisinger.

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Takeaways and Next Steps From the Open Hardware Summit

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Last week I had the opportunity to participate in the Open Hardware Summit, an event that is always a highlight of my conference year.  Now in its fourth year, the summit is a chance for the robust community that has grown up around open source hardware to come together, discuss what has been happening, and show off great advances.

By any measure, the open source hardware community is thriving.  Each year the summit gets bigger, the projects and products get more ambitious, and the barrier to entry is lowered.  But this year it did feel like the community was reaching an inflection point.  The world of open source hardware is expanding beyond its original borders, and that presents its own set of challenges and opportunities.  While I raised some of these during the panel that wrapped up the summit, I wanted to expand upon a few of them a bit more.

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But For These Rules…

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According to Verizon, the FCC's Open Internet Rules are the only thing preventing ISPs from becoming gatekeepers for the internet. For background on yesterday's hearing, start here, for a summary of the arguments go here, and for a timeline of net neutrality, click here.


Yesterday Verizon explained, in the simplest terms possible, why net neutrality rules are so important: the rules are the only thing preventing ISPs from turning the internet into cable TV.

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What is Net Neutrality Again?

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In the wake of next week's oral argument about the FCC’s Open Internet rules, we revisit Net Neutrality and why is it important.  We've also put together this timeline on the history of net neutrality.


Net neutrality is going to be back in the news for the next week or so. That’s because next week will feature an oral argument about the FCC’s Open Internet rules (that’s the FCC’s name for its net neutrality rules) before the DC Circuit Court. Since it has been a little while since the last big net neutrality news, we wanted to take a moment to bring everyone back up to speed. Today’s post will remind you what net neutrality is and why it is a good idea. Tomorrow we’ll discuss the FCC’s actual implementation of net neutrality through its Open Internet order.  And on Thursday we will go over the issue actually being argued before the DC Circuit – if the FCC even has the authority to implement rules in the first place.

What is Net Neutrality Again?

Contrary to how it is sometimes used, net neutrality is not synonymous with “something bad happening on the internet.”  It actually refers to something fairly specific.  Simply put, net neutrality is the principle that the company that connects you to the internet does not get to control what you do on the internet. We’ve created a website – WhatIsNetNeutrality.org – to help people remember that.  And if you prefer your explanations in video form, give this a spin.

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If You Are Streaming Video, You Can’t Cap Your Rivals (Time Warner Cable Edition)

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All of the innovation in the world does not change the fact that cable companies have the power to cap their online video rivals.


Time Warner Cable recently announced that it's cable TV subscribers can download an app onto their Xbox360 consoles.  The app gives them access to a wide range of cable content through their Xbox360.  But for the fact that Time Warner Cable also imposes data caps on its subscribers, this would be fantastic news.

It is great to see companies like Time Warner Cable (TWC) trying out new things.  And we have pushed the FCC for years to update its rules to make it easier for all cable subscribers (and, for that matter, all other pay TV subscribers) to access the content they pay for on the devices of their choosing.  So why can't we celebrate TWC's announcement?  Because as the internet offers more ways for competitors to reach consumers, the way that cable companies treat the internet begins to matter more.

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After All These Years, We Still Don’t Know Much About Data Caps

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Any discussion must be built on facts. But the FCC has not asked the questions, and ISPs have not provided answers.


Earlier this week, the Open Internet Advisory Committee – a group formed by the FCC to provide advice about the Commission’s Open Internet Order (also known as the net neutrality order) – released its first report.  The Committee examined a host of thorny issues left unresolved in the FCC’s 2010 Order.  The overall, but unstated, conclusion was clear: in the almost three years since the Order, the FCC has done almost nothing to improve its understanding of the issues in question.  It, and the public, is almost three years older but far from three years wiser.

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Getty Shows What it Means to be a Modern Museum

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Making public domain works available in a public domain way respects copyright and spreads culture. 


Yesterday's news from the Getty Museum that they were making high-resolution images of 4,600 works in their collection available for free download should be celebrated by anyone who cares about art and culture. And it should also be celebrated by anyone who cares about copyright and the public domain, and who is thinking about what it means to be a modern museum dedicated to bringing people into contact with art.

Let's get the art and culture part out of the way first.  One of the great things about museums is that they allow people who are not, say, massively rich oil magnates to access culture. And one of the great things about the internet is that they allow people who are not physically near something to experience it themselves. Combining the two makes all sorts of sense.

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3 Things We Learned About Publishers from the Apple E-Book Price Fixing Opinion

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One good, one bad, and one undetermined thing about the world view of book publishers.


Yesterday, a federal court found Apple guilty of antitrust violations in connection with the creation of its digital bookstore. The decision is full of interesting information about antitrust law and emerging markets. But in addition to that, the opinion – drawing on internal emails and in-court testimony – offers a compelling description of how publishers see their world. 

At least three things jump out:

1. Everyone at the Top Understands That There is a Relationship Between Availability and Piracy

On an abstract level, this point will come as no surprise to regular readers of this blog or anyone involved in discussions around digital copyright for the past decade or so.  Digital locks do not combat piracy.  Suing your customers does not combat piracy.  The best – and really only – way to combat piracy is to offer the public an easy way to buy your products at a reasonable price.

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Online Video Moves Out of the Bedroom

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Permits for online video production are up, which means the industry is coming into its own.


Last week, Los Angeles announced that “Web-Based TV” on-location film permits were up 63% compared to last year.  While that is an impressive percentage increase, the absolute number was even more striking.  In the second quarter there were 499 permit requests – compared to 381 for TV Sitcoms and 384 for TV pilots.

For an industry that is often thought of as people making videos and posting them from their bedroom, this is a number worth considering for a moment.  It means that online video production is moving into the streets – and getting bigger in the process.

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Legislating for Headlines Makes you Look Like a Jerk

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Introducing laws that regulate 3D printing before figuring out what 3D printing is will not lead to success.


We’ve written a lot about various legal and political reactions to 3D printed guns.  Fundamentally, we have urged lawmakers to take the time to focus on what really concerns them about the idea of a 3D printed gun and to make sure that any new legislation actually addresses that concern.  In almost every case, singling out a specific method of manufacture (be it 3D printing or anything else) is not the best way to do that.

While this is a good legislative practice generally, sometimes it can come into conflict with another instinct – the need for publicity.  Occasionally, lawmakers are motivated more by their desire to get a headline than their desire to make good policy.  All of the attention that 3D printing has been getting lately makes it a tempting target for just that impulse.

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3D Printed Copyright Infringement is Still Copyright Infringement

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A Creative Commons license on a 3D printed sculpture does not mean that you can print it however you want.


The past few days have seen an increase in complaints by 3D printing designers about how companies that manufacture 3D printers use their designs.  It raises questions about how copyright works in the world of 3D printing, and what it means to release designs under a Creative Commons license.

Copyright Still Exists in 3D Printing

One of the things that makes 3D printing so interesting is that, especially when compared to the world of music and movies, lots of 3D printed objects are not protected by copyright (or any type of intellectual property right) at all.  However, the fact that many 3D printed things are not protected by copyright does not mean that all 3D printed things are not protected by copyright. 

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Thanks to 3D Printing and Open Source Hardware, Patent May be on the Cusp of a Copyright Moment

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A new wave of creators care about innovating. They care about building things. And they mostly see patents as getting in the way.


If you are a practicing patent attorney, it might be a good idea to call up that one copyright attorney you know and invite them out for some coffee.  Because it’s starting to look like patents are about to have a copyright-like moment where they get pulled from an esoteric corner of law and thrust into popular culture.

And this isn’t a post about software patents, or about the portable patent thicket that is a modern mobile phone.  No, this is a post about what happens when an entire chunk of society runs into an area of law and gets really, really annoyed with what they find.

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Data Caps and 1-800 Numbers

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If data caps are like 1-800 numbers, the same consumer protections that apply to phone numbers must also apply to data.


 Recently we have seen stories about wireless carriers “offering” content creators the opportunity to pay to exempt their content from data caps.  We pointed out that this type of arrangement is exactly the type of thing that net neutrality is supposed to prevent.  However, some wireless carriers have defended it as merely a modern day 1-800 number.   What they forget is that 1-800 numbers did not exist in a vacuum.

Yes, 1-800 numbers allowed businesses to make incoming calls free to customers by picking up the charge.  In that sense, they superficially resemble a scheme where certain content is exempted from data caps.  But stopping there kind of misses the point.

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AT&T CEO: Data Caps Are About Charging Content Providers

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By imposing data caps on consumers, ISPs can charge content providers to be exempt from those same caps.


The quest to determine why data caps really exist may be starting to wind down.  ISPs have admitted, either explicitly or implicitly, that monthly data caps have nothing to do with network congestion. And, while some have started to portray data caps as legitimate forms of price discrimination, that argument did not hold up to close scrutinty either. So what's left?  Why are ISPs going to all of this effort to make customers deal with something they hate?

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson has finally let the cat out of the bag.  Data caps are all about forcing content creators to pay in order to reach subscribers.  By creating data caps, ISPs create a new market that never needed to exist and never existed before: the market for not being counted against data caps.  And that market can be big money.  But it can also fundamentally change the way the internet economy functions.

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Guess Those Wireless Networks Aren’t Congested After All

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If networks really were overloaded, would carriers try to cut special deals to bring even more streaming video onto them?


Last week’s announcement that ESPN was in talks with at least one major wireless carrier to exempt its video from data caps raised fundamental net neutrality issues.  But it also raised an important question about the robustness of wireless networks.  If wireless networks were really as congested and starved of spectrum as some carriers like to claim, why would they be negotiating to bring more video onto them?

Wireless carriers have long complained about their network’s inability to meet customer expectations.  It was proposed as a justification to exempt wireless networks from net neutrality rules and destructively consolidate the industry (both failed convince the FCC).  It also shows up as a reason to move away from unlimited data towards more expensive tiered plans, and generally to explain why carriers over-promise and under-deliver on service.

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FCC: This is What a Net Neutrality Violation Looks Like

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Content providers paying ISPs special fees to access customers is exactly what net neutrality is supposed to prevent.  It is time for the FCC to heed its own warning.


News broke today that ESPN is in negotiations with at least one major wireless carrier to pay to exempt ESPN content from data caps.  This type of structure, where content providers who pay get better access to customers, is exactly what net neutrality is designed to prevent. 

At its core, net neutrality is all about making sure that the company that connects you to the internet does not get to control what you do on the internet (if you ever forget that, just head on over to WhatIsNetNeutrality.org for a reminder).  Imposing data caps on consumers and then allowing wealthy content holders to buy their way around them is a recipe for stagnation online.

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Two Good Signs of a Maturing 3D Printed Gun Debate

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Friday may well go down as a turning point in the debate around 3D printed guns, and 3D printing policy in general.  Two important sides seemed to step away from confrontation and instead focus on what is important to them.  Defense Distributed included metal parts in their otherwise fully 3D printed handgun.  And Rep. Steve Israel used Defense Distributed’s announcement to raise concerns about undetectable firearms, not 3D printing.  Both should be praised for these decisions.

Bur first, some background

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Data Caps Freeze Innovation: Higher Quality Video Edition

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Of the many problems with data caps, one of the most pernicious is the way they freeze innovation and the evolution of online services. Today’s announcement from Kaleidescape that they will begin offering “Blu-ray quality” video downloads illustrates that beautifully. That means that one video weighs in at over 50 GB of data.

Remember, there was a time when this video was "good enough" for most people. | image by flickr user Louis Abate

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Meet Rep. Steve Israel, The Man Who Wants to Turn Congress Against 3D Printing

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Last week, Rep. Steve Israel introduced a bill designed to regulate firearms that cannot be found by metal detectors.  The bill makes a passing reference the 3D printing, which is fine.  But the rhetoric that Rep. Israel is using to promote the bill is both muddled and overblown, and focuses almost exclusively on 3D printing.  This is a problem.

As part of the bill introduction process, Rep. Israel circulated a “Dear Colleague” letter to his fellow Members of Congress asking them to co-sponsor the legislation.  The title of the letter?  “Co-Sponsor Legislation to Ban 3D Printed Guns”

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Turning 3D Printed Copyright Infringers into Partners

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3D printing means more people are becoming professional designers, creating and selling even more things.  Although most of these designers are creating wholly original objects, it should not be a surprise that some are building off of existing TV shows, movies, and books.  The result: the world of merchandising is about to confront a long tail that can't be monitored or controlled.  How should rightsholders respond?  By embracing it.

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HBO, Give People a Way to Buy Your 3D Printed Stuff

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Today’s example of copyright coming into contact with 3D printing is a 3D printed phone dock made to look like Game of Throne’s Iron Throne.  The facts are fairly straightforward: Designer Fernando Sosa modeled the dock on the Iron Throne featured in HBO’s Game of Thrones series.  HBO sent him a takedown notice, claiming a copyright on the throne.  Sosa took the throne down.

On its face, this appears to be a textbook application of the DMCA takedown process in action.  However, it also highlights something of a missed opportunity for HBO.

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PK In The Know Podcast: ISPs Don’t Know How to Count

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On today's podcast we discuss ISPs that can't count data usage, how close we are to free national wifi, and the coming telephone network transition.  We also mention 3D printing copyright and companies that are leveraging 3D printing to connect with customers.

Listen to Podcast

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes here.
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Click here to download the file for this week's podcast directly.

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Wanna Be a PK Law Clerk this Summer?

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If so, what are you waiting for?  We are still taking applications from interested, motivated rising 2L and 3L law students.  Past law clerks have participated in nearly every aspect of our work, from researching and drafting Congressional testimony and amicus briefs, to attending Hill and coalition meetings, to blogging about current issues and controversies right here on the PK policy blog.

Send a cover letter, resume, and a short persuasive writing sample to recruiting@publicknowledge.org today!

 

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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.

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Encouraging Signs On The Not-Suing-3D-Printing-Out-Of-Existence Front

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One of the most common questions I get about 3D printing from reporters is “what is going to happen when companies discover this and start freaking out?”  More specifically, what happens when an industry has a “Napster moment” and decides that these crazy 3D printers are destroying their business model?

My usual answer is that I hope that the industry (whatever it is) learns from history and does not simply repeat it.  When the internet became widely available and Napser showed just how easy it was to distribute music online, the music industry’s first reaction was to sue.  The industry dedicated time, money, and effort to trying to turn back innovation and protect a business model that was suddenly outdated.  It took years, and essentially being tricked by Apple, before the industry started dedicating some of that time, money, and effort to monetizing the internet.

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AT&T Exempts Itself From Its Data Cap, Violates (at least) the Spirit of Net Neutrality

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Last year, Comcast started exempting its own online video service from the data cap it imposed on consumers. When consumers streamed online video (say, because they were thinking about cutting the cord and replacing their Comcast cable subscription with an online competitor), that video counted against their cap.  Unless, of course, that online video came from Comcast.  Online video coming from Comcast was exempted from Comcast’s own data cap, giving consumers a disincentive to watch video from a competitor.  We urged the FCC to investigate this anticompetitive use of data caps, and are still waiting for a resolution.

Today, while we continue to wait for the FCC to investigate data cap abuse, AT&T has decided to follow suit and exempt data from its own services from the data cap it imposes on its DSL and U-verse customers.  Unlike every other type of data on those connections, data from an AT&T wireless phone does not count against the DSL/U-verse cap.

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More on 3D Printing and DRM

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The general reaction to the idea of expanding DRM to 3D printing has been, encouragingly, negative.  DRM has completely failed to slow the supply of unauthorized copies of music, movies, and books online.  At the same time it has succeeded in frustrating perfectly legitimate uses of copyrighted content.  There is no reason to think that either of those outcomes would be different if DRM was applied to 3D printing.  However, there could be a way to apply DRM-like techniques to 3D printing in a positive, consumer-friendly way.

Two distinct categories of DRM

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The Question at the Core of the Data Caps Debate

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Internet Service Providers (ISPs) regularly insist that data caps are a legitimate tool to ease congestion on their networks and an effective way to signal value to consumers. But, as we have argued, data caps do not resolve congestion, are confusing to consumers, and lend themselves to unfair and anticompetitive behavior.

In light of this disagreement, it is a promising sign that a recent study published by the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) and co-authored by Steven S. Wildman, the new Chief Economist of the FCC, moves beyond some of the previous rhetoric and takes a significant step towards focusing the debate on real areas of conflict. 

Unfortunately, it stops short of recognizing a critical distinction in understanding the heart of the disagreement.

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Focus on Undetectable Firearms, Not 3D Printers

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On Friday, Rep. Steve Israel reportedly invoked 3D printing to illustrate his concerns about undetectable plastic firearms.  This may represent the first time that a lawmaker has explicitly linked 3D printing with a perceived threat to society.  Hopefully, Rep. Israel recognizes there is no such thing as a 3D printing-specific solution to the problem of plastic guns.

Let's be clear about one thing: nobody wants people sneaking guns onto airplanes or into other areas protected by metal detectors.  And we have all seen In the Line of Fire enough times to understand that plastic guns can be smuggled into places that metal guns might never see.  But any attempt to address these concerns should focus on plastic guns, not 3D printers.

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What Happens When Patent Lawsuits Hit Home 3D Printing?

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While you were preparing to get your Thanksgiving on last week, news broke that one of the oldest and largest 3D printing companies, 3D Systems, was suing one of the newest, Formlabs, for patent infringement.  Besides the obvious question (is Formlabs actually infringing?), the suit raises two other interesting questions: what does it mean when an established 3D printing company sues an upstart for patent infringement?  And why did 3D Systems decide to sue Kickstarter as well?

First, a bit of background

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FCC Avoids Easy Questions on Data Caps

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Imagine your internet connection has a cap.  You get an alert that you are getting close to the cap, but the numbers do not feel right.  As a sophisticated user, you start measuring your own data usage and find that your ISP appears to be overestimating your usage by 20-30%.  Furthermore, when confronted with the discrepancy, your ISP tells you that the way they measure your usage is proprietary – a secret.  When faced with such a ridiculous situation your first instinct may be to turn to the Federal Communications Commission to get you some clarity.  Unfortunately, since the FCC has spent the past few years studiously avoiding the issue of data caps, that instinct would get you nowhere.

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United States Copyright Office: Ripping is Illegal

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Today the Register of Copyrights and the Librarian of Congress announced the 1201 exemptions.  You may remember that the 1201 review is the triannual process where organizations, communities, and individuals request permission to circumvent Digital Rights Management (DRM) technologies that prevent them from doing otherwise perfectly legal things.  This time around, Public Knowledge requested an exemption that would allow people to rip DVDs they already own in order to transfer the movie to a device that cannot play DVDs (like a tablet).

That request was rejected.  Furthermore, the Register and the Librarian explained that they were unconvinced that space shifting was fair use at all.  That has huge implications well beyond people who want to watch the movies they own on DVD on their iPad.

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DRM on 3D Printers is a Big Deal. Nathan Myhrvold’s Patent is Not.

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Recently, Antonio Regalado at Technology Review identified a patent on Digital Rights Management (DRM) for 3D printing.  The patent, granted to Nathan Myhrvold's company Intellectual Ventures (IV), initiated a wave of discussion about DRM and 3D printing.  While this is a discussion that is worth having, the existence of the patent it not particularly relevant to it.

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Open Source Hardware and the Law

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Last month I attended the third Open Hardware Summit in New York City.  With the growth of the community and the emergence of products that target people beyond core open source hardware enthusiasts, there was a great deal of discussion about what it really means to be open source hardware and also how to be both open source and competitive in the hardware world.  This post expands upon something that I only had time to briefly touch upon during my presentation.

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