Posted: 2017-12-07 18:09:32

The relationship between 3D printing, copyright, and the protection of intellectual property has experienced some strain due to its necessarily digital nature. Readers may remember a debacle surrounding the unauthorized sale of 3D printed designs by Louise Driggers (aka Loubie) – an issue that was quickly cleared up thanks to the online community.

In a landmark case running parallel to the industry, some of the grey areas surrounding design ownership were also resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court.

However, today in Brussels members of JURI, the European Parliament’s Committee on Legal Affairs, met to discuss intellectual property (IP) rights and civil liability of 3D printing.

In session with Conservative, Liberal and Green Party members Joëlle Bergeron, a member of the Eurosceptic Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy group and former member of France’s National Front, presented an own-initiative report proposing legislative action to control and monitor additive manufacturing activity.

Heading of JURI's own-initiative report of 3D printing, IP and civil liability. Image via EuroParl
Heading of JURI’s own-initiative report of 3D printing, IP and civil liability. Image via EuroParl

Aim and scope

Introducing the aim and scope of such a report, the working document signals that “Since the object being made has been digitally designed, the possibilities for modifying and applying it are endless.” Therefore, it proposes action to create “lawful 3D printing services.”

Such services, as outlined in the preliminary document, would be relating to IP and “the possibility of customising an object,” and civil liability “in view of how the production chain operates.”

Under IP, the document references a review conducted for France’s Higher
Council for Literary and Artistic Property. Though the review found no cause of reasonable concern for 3D printing and copyright infringement, the author of the report called for a further clarification of the boundaries where online 3D filesharing
platforms are concerned.

In the second section, the document references a directive that is currently under review for whether it meets the needs created by 3D printing. Again the document asks for further clarification on responsibility when it comes to defective, or counterfeit 3D prints.

Possible solutions

Three actions are suggested as possible solutions to the issues raised by the own-initiative report. First, a regulated global database of 3D printed object. Second, a legal limit on the amount of objects that can be produced. And finally, a 3D printing tax “to compensate IPR holders for the loss suffered as a result of private copies being made of objects in 3D.”

As the noted, however, “None is wholly satisfactory on its own,” nor can they be enforced without substantial and perhaps impossibly exhaustive definitions in place, i.e. what constitutes a “private copy”?

A badge with a character resembling Mickey Mouse in reference to the in popular culture rationale behind the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998, the badge was made by Nina Paley.
A badge with a character resembling Mickey Mouse in reference to the in popular culture rationale behind the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998, the badge was made by Nina Paley.

The commission’s vote

According to Intellectual Property Watch the proposal was largely discounted by Conservative, Liberal and Green Party members of JURI noting the “innovative potential” of the relatively new technology.

The full document is available to view online in full here.

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Featured image shows EU flags outside European Parliament. Photo by Walerian Walawski/SublimeStar.com

 

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