California Bill Would Require Libraries Post Scary Warning Signs Not To Do Infringy Stuff With 3D Printers

from the how-dare-you-build-useful-stuff dept

For a few years now, folks like Michael Weinberg have been pretty vocal about warning the world not to screw up 3D printing by falling for the same copyright/patenting mistakes that are now holding back other creative industries. Trying to lock up good ideas is not a good idea. Just recently we noted how 3D printing was challenging some long held beliefs about copyright, and we shouldn’t simply fall into the old ways of doing things. At our inaugural Copia Institute summit, we had a really fascinating discussion about not letting intellectual property freakouts destroy the potential of 3D printing.

Well, here comes the start of the freakouts. Via Parker Higgins, we find out that there’s a new bill in the California Assembly, AB-37*, which would require libraries that have 3D printers to post stupid signs warning people not to do nasty infringy things with those printers:

This bill would require every public library that provides public access to a 3D printer, as defined, to post a notice on or near the 3D printer that would alert users of the 3D printer of the potential liability of the user for misuse of the 3D printer, as specified. This bill would require the Department of Justice to draft and distribute this notice, as specified, and annually review and revise the notice for accuracy. By imposing additional duties upon local officials, this bill would create a state-mandated local program.

In the actual text of the law, they’re explicit about how it’s about not infringing intellectual property:

The Department of Justice shall prepare and distribute to a public library that provides public access to a 3D printer a notice that would alert users of the 3D printer of the potential liability of the user for misuse of the 3D printer. The notice shall do all of the following:

(A) Provide citations to the applicable state and federal laws that may impose civil liability or criminal penalties for misuse of a 3D printer, including laws regarding copyright infringement and trademark and patent protection.

Katy Perry’s left shark is weeping at the ridiculousness of it all.

First of all, this shows the ridiculous ownership mentality of some, who automatically assume that creating something new must be infringing on someone’s rights somewhere. Second, the idea that government mandated signs are somehow going to alleviate such uses is ridiculous. Beyond the fact that government “warnings” about infringement are routinely mocked (or just widely ignored), this has all the markings of the old red flag laws, in which the government mandated that there needed to be someone waving a red flag walking in front of every automobile. Trying to place restrictions on new technology based on some fantasy possible problems is no way to create a more innovative society and economy. It’s only a way to hinder it.

What’s really unfortunate, is it appears this bill was proposed by Assemblymember Nora Campos — who represents San Jose. In other words, our Copia Inaugural Summit, in which we discussed these exact issues and why people shouldn’t overreact was held in her district. And while Campos was invited to the event, and a number of her colleagues in the California Assembly attended, she did not. Perhaps it would have been helpful to have her come and learn about the actual issues related to intellectual property and 3D printing, rather than pushing out a ridiculous bill like this.

* For unclear reasons, the bill was originally about drones, and was then amended to remove everything drone related and add all the 3D printing stuff. It is unclear why.

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Comments on “California Bill Would Require Libraries Post Scary Warning Signs Not To Do Infringy Stuff With 3D Printers”

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Anonymous Coward says:

If something is cheaper to print than to buy new, someone is making excess profit. If its not available on the market why worry about a few being printed. Its not like 3d printers are high speed production machines, they are slow prototype one off machines.
This law seems more like toy manufacturers taking the first step to outlaw homemade toys and gadgets..

Roger Strong (profile) says:


Apparently higher print speeds and 3D-printing of simple electronic gadgets are on the horizon.

We’ll know the technology has matured when a 3D printer user is confronted by police over intellectual property concerns, and prints out a camera on the spot to record the police interaction.

3D printing enthusiasts will have mixed feelings when the police officer responds by sticking a thumb drive in the printer, printing out a Taser, and punishing him for Contempt of Cop.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Soon...

“We’ll know the technology has matured when a 3D printer user is confronted by police over intellectual property concerns, and prints out a camera on the spot to record the police interaction.”

I swear as I was reading this I thought I was going to see:

“We’ll know the technology has matured when a 3D printer user is confronted by police over intellectual property concerns, and prints out a” … senior police officer to tell the other officers to go take a hike. I wonder who’s going to print the first facsimile prosecutor? “I decline to charge him”, “I’m the prosecutor here, you’re a fake”, “No, you are, see here’s my law degree it’s absolutely 100% genuine”…

Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

Is this infringing?

Lemme get this straight. A librarian is supposed to determine if the thing I am gonna print on the 3D printer is infringing…something? How in hell are they gonna determine if it is somebody else’s design, or mine?

Presumably, the software used is already licensed and the only thing I bring is some data.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I like how you can draft a bill called “Prevent Puppies From Crying Act of 2018”, remove everything about puppies, crying and 2018, and amend totally other stuff like making shirts out of cars, define the state animal as a snowflake and promise your firstborn to satin (for the fluffy feel).

And if it’s now long enough, nobody will read it and it will be passed.
If not you just amend it to the farm bill.

Anonymous Coward says:

> For unclear reasons, the bill was originally about drones, and was then amended to remove everything drone related and add all the 3D printing stuff. It is unclear why.

From corresponding with a state representative, I learned that this is not an uncommon tactic: Jack up a bill, replace all its guts with something unrelated, then throw that bill onto the floor for a vote.

Why? Because it avoids some of the bureaucracy built into (various state) bill-submitting procedures. For instance, there are sometimes limits to how many bills can be submitted, or when they have to be submitted in order to be considered before the end of the session. Going this route only requires that a bill be available for amendment.

Another side of this tactic is that sometimes people (representatives/senators) will have read the earlier text and not the (completely revised) later text, and make committee or floor arguments that have been made completely irrelevant. Sometimes all a representative has is the title and what some lobbyist told her, making for argument even less connected to the actual text. … making good fodder for reelection campaign arguments.

This link may help.

TL;DR: because someone either wanted the 3d printing notice, or wanted to stop the drone bill. Either answer alone would be sufficient.

Anonymous Coward says:

Because making your own AK-47 parts without a license from Kalashnikov Concern is apparently something to be frowned on, despite the company, its products, and its intellectual property, being banned from doing business of any kind in the U.S.A.

And how do we know that 3D printers are not leaving some sort of indelible mark that identifies the individual printer used, just like color laser printers do?

Anonymous Coward says:

The text is standard boilerplate putting the user at fault if they are doing something infringing. Basically they’re putting signs up saying that if the user does something infringing the library is not at fault. Go to your local corporate run copy shop and they’ll have the same information on their copiers/printers.

M. Alan Thomas II (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Yes and no and I wish. Let me explain:

Yes: The signs you’re thinking of are due to federal law, specifically 17 U.S.C. 108(f)(1), which explicitly indemnifies libraries if they post those signs. But it only applies to copyright. It also doesn’t apply to copy shops, which is why they sometimes don’t have those signs; they’re still potentially liable.

No: The California proposal does not explicitly indemnify the libraries if they post those signs. It’s not clear that they would have that effect absent an explicit indemnification in the statute, so this proposal doesn’t necessarily do what you think it does.

I wish: I know some of the lawyer-librarians who have been talking about the issue of 3D printing liability, and we’ve discussed the signage idea before. Quite frankly, most of us would be happy with a 17 U.S.C. 108(f)(1)-style liability shield, but it would have to be done like the federal copyright version and not this California proposal.* Interestingly, the copyright law only refers to “reproducing equipment,” so libraries can presumably escape any theoretical copyright liability on 3D printers that way; our problem is more with patent law, printed guns, &c.

*Defending copyright law as the rational option is . . . disconcerting.

jameshogg says:

“Anyone caught taking home books to scan or take pictures of each page shall be punished by catapult. ALL PHONES ARE TO BE HANDED IN TO THE LIBRARIAN UNTIL THE BOOKS ARE RETURNED.”

“Baking businesses must not draw three black circles on their cakes. Anyone caught doing so shall be punished by catapult. Any website giving instructions on how to bake a cake with three black circles WILL BE BLOCKED.”

“All stationary shops are to have their pens and paper equipped with Digital Rights Management devices that incinerate themselves upon the creation of an infringing image. The user shall then be punished by catapult.”

“FBI WARNING: Federal Law provides severe civil and criminal penalties for the unauthorized reproduction, distribution, or exhibition of copyrighted motion pictures, video tapes, DVDs or video discs. Criminal copyright infringement is investigated by the FBI and may constitute a felony with a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison and/or a $250,000 fine. DO NOT COPY.”

Is copyright philosophy absurd enough yet?

Anonymous Coward says:

The Google, boon to understanding.

Search for “copia institute” gets all of 23,400 hits. Only a few site names that I knew, and many clearly just automated copy. Past 4th page seems pretty tenuous.

But easy to find a couple gems.
“a for-profit think tank qua network that will focus on understanding the world through the lens of abundance rather than scarcity. The institute is being backed by the MacArthur Foundation, Union Square Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz, Foundry Group, Spark Capital. Google, Automattic (WordPress), Yelp and Namecheap.”

Now, maybe Google directly funding Masnick has been stated, but I didn’t know it (would have caught my eye), and in any case should be in EVERY Google item because highly relevant: a journalist would, but as a “blogger”, Masnick makes up his own ethics.

And of course PIRATES are involved. This post by user named “Mike”!
It won’t let me see user details, but from the link with this statement “I’ve already posted the opening video” makes clear that is indeed Mike “Pirate” Masnick.

Finding Masnick posting at “” and user details kept out of public view, that’s a HOOT.

Anonymous Coward says:

My New Business

My company will be offering to libraries to set up a camera and record all items printed on their 3D printers. My company will determine if the item is infringing and if it is we will automatically send a lawsuit. We will skip any C&D notification as that is too costly to administer. (Kinda like a redlight cam for 3D printers.)

antidirt (profile) says:

Well, here comes the start of the freakouts.

I don’t see how posting a sign that warns users to consider IP laws is a “freakout.” It seems like the one freaking out is you, as demonstrated by the faith-based FUD in your post. The sign will have no effect on curbing infringement, but it will be detrimental to innovation? I’d ask you to defend this claim, but we both know that you can’t. Why are you freaking out so hard about a sign, Mike? Why all the FUD? Slow news day?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Perhaps the freakout should be “why is this signage more important than discussing drones?”

Because at least in my head, I couldn’t give a flying fuck about some sign that will have the same effect as the warnings at the beginning of DVDs. And I resent publicly funded officials spending time discussing useless shit like that.

So I think it’s definitely a freakout, but more along the lines of “this is what we’re fucking paying you useless fucktards to do?”

DB (profile) says:

This will become like California’s Proposition 65.

That required a notice of any toxic materials. But that’s not well defined, and a business or building owner is strictly liable if there is an unknown hazard or a substance that is later decided to be hazardous.

It was quickly discovered that the quick way around this unlimited lawsuit open season was just to put notices everywhere. Many (most? nearly all?) commercial buildings have a Prop 65 notice posted somewhere. It doesn’t mean there is toxic materials. It doesn’t really mean anything. It’s pretty much like putting up garlic over the doorway just in case there are vampires.

Rather than admit “yeah, we didn’t think that through” and withdraw the specific law (which wouldn’t require a withdraw vote on the proposition) California just pretends it’s effective. The environmentalists claim a win and pat themselves on the back. Everyone loses a little bit except for the signmakers.

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