Is This The First DMCA Notice Over 3D Printer Plans?

from the begin-the-beginning dept

Just a few months ago, we highlighted how an upcoming battle in the copyright world will be coming from the rise in 3D printing, and the ability to simply print out new physical objects based on plans. And, as a few different folks have sent in, a site that collects and aggregates 3D printer plans called Thingiverse recently said that it's received its first ever DMCA takedown notice over a plan for a 3D printer object. To avoid liability, of course, the site complied. The specific DMCA takedown involved this 3D printable design of "the impossible triangle."
Of course many people wondered if the guy claiming copyright on this, Dr. Ulrich Schwanitz, had a valid copyright on this, since the basic design he's talking about is just the famed Penrose triangle, and there are plenty of examples of people making it. On top of that, the DMCA takedown he issued was over people creating similar Penrose triangle 3D printer designs based on a challenge Schwanitz himself put out there, to see if anyone else could figure out how to model a printable Penrose triangle, and the winning results figured it out:
Of course, the very fact that they figured it out themselves, without the specific instructions on how Schwanitz did it, lends even more credence to the claim that the takedown was completely bogus. They created these new versions not by copying his work, which was hidden away, but by understanding the basic physics and optics of how to create something that appears like the classic Penrose triangle. In fact, the creator of the 3D printable version above notes that his version was "based solely on the 1934 design painted by Swedish artist Oscar Reutersvard," which makes me wonder what sort of copyright claim Dr. Schwanitz actually has over the design.

In the end, Schwanitz decided to back down, rescinding the takedown notice and promising to release his version into the public domain (where it may have really been all along). Still, this definitely is an early warning sign of things to come. I'm sure it won't be long before we hear of more copyright issues related to 3D printers, and they'll be over issues a lot more serious than an optical illusion.

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  1. identicon
    Rekrul, 22 Feb 2011 @ 7:25am

    Re: Re: Re: They call it dirt for a reason

    The most important being that the plans to print something on a 3D printer would be the same as the plans to build a house. Yes, you can copyright building plans (and even trademark the "names" of these places), even if the look of the building is similar to other designs in the past. Architectural plans are both science and art, and merit protection.

    It wouldn't be unreasonable for that to be extended off to 3D printable objects (and maybe even the future Star Trek Replicator Device).


    Why don't we just stop coming up with new technology? It seems like any time someone invents something innovative, most of the effort goes into finding ways to put limits on it. Limits either built into the technology itself or imposed on it by the legal system.

    Companies make faster internet services and then place caps on the accounts so that people can't actually use it like they want to. We invent digital files that can be copied an infinite number of times with no loss in quality and all the corporations spend millions coming up with ways to make them un-copyable. They invent display devices capable of beautiful HD pictures and then they saddle them with restrictions on what can be connected to them. Companies like Netflix come up with the idea of letting people watch streaming movies online and the studios try to kill it with high fees and restrictive licensing.

    Why even bother inventing something new when it will just be the source of controversy and a push to have all sorts of limits and restrictions placed on it? Much better to just freeze technology at its current level than to try adapting to a world where things are no longer finite.

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