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
    Experimenting With Business Models, 11 Apr 2011 @ 3:32pm

    How much has changed

    I haven't read techdirt in a while so I wouldn't know if my question has been addressed but I was curious, how does this affect your post "The Grand Unified Theory On The Economics On Free"? Do we simply erase merchandise such as CDs, figurines, action figures, and accessories? Or are they still scarce so as long as "official" is attached to the merchandise?

    How will this affect the industries that rely on physical scarce goods? Will the embracing of this technology by many industries be futile as home 3D printers become more feasible?

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