Intellectual Property Rights
One of the issues which keeps coming up is how do designers protect their intellectual property. Of course, they face the same issues as all creative artists from the media industry.
The only solution for years was to rely on honesty and of course that people would have to know each in order to pass a physical copy.
Of course the introduction of digital rights management (DRM) put paid to a lot piracy in the film and music industry. Atleast for a while. Witness the quick adoption by iTunes and other streamers. More to the point, look at the quality of your average free pirated download and hey! are they also sticking something on your computer? You bet the professional priates are. It is only the amateurs that plaster your screen with popups and annoying ads during the show.
Big Brands Could Be Threatened By 3D Printing
How long before we see DRM or some type of other prevention being used on 3D models for printing? It is a good question and a few high profile cases where big brands are seriously infringed will probably be the catalyst which forces the issue. Is it going to happen folks? The business world will demand it. Perhaps sooner as opposed to later. You only have to do a quick search to see copyright protection is quickly rising up the agenda.
Of course, nobody cares about you making a toy unless your name is Lego or PlayMobil and you start flogging the products off the back of a truck. However these businesses will have little choice but to pursue infringers if it ever eats into their profits.
The point is simple – it is not a case of “IF ” some method of protection will be embedded into 3D models for printing but “WHEN” and “HOW” will it be implemented. A best guess is we will see it within three years but there is a proviso. A big one indeed.
Secure 3D Printing
Protection is not a simple matter technically and there are issues given a lack of standard 3D model file formats, albeit STL is the most popular flavour for 3D printing. No technique can just be applied and all designers wake up celebrating a world of ‘milk and honey’.
Securing the intellectual property in the design files needs to be embraced by the major suppliers of solid modelling software and equally so by the 3D printer manufacturers. Given their history and in fairness the weight of the task, it may take a little while yet.
Still, one can guess an important question which is being asked by big brands who see the risks of 3D printing. They must already be conscious of the threat for sure. With that in mind, we are seeing techniques being trialed by Secure3D et al such as file streaming and encryption. The complete model is never supplied all at once to the printer and certainly not in the clear. In addition, there are a number of file slicing and server side hosting techniques which have the potential to make complete copying difficult.
All that being said, the biggest threat probably comes from 3D scanners. Once an object is in the real world, it can be scanned and copied. There appears to be no answer to that. The copyright owners will have little choice but to go after the file sharers as the points of distribution. It looks like copyright lawyers are in for big bonuses over the next few years.
To 3D print a copy or not to 3D print a copy, that is the question – 3D Hamlet