Buying a MakerBot Digitizer? 3D scanners come with copyright strings attached

Will piracy laws kill 3D printing?

Yesterday, MakerBot announced the availability of its new Digitizer 3D Desktop Scanner. The concept is definitely a cool one: Take an object that’s up to 8 inches tall and 8 inches wide (and up to 6.6 pounds), place it on the scanner, and allow the Digitizer’s lasers to scan the object and output the 3D code to your 3D printer’s software. It’s basically reverse 3D printing.

However, as Forbes pointed out in a story today, it seems you can’t just go around 3D-scanning whatever you want and printing your own versions, as copyright infringement can come into play – bet you never thought of that. Say you just wanted to print your own version of that cute Partridge in a Pear Tree Salt and Pepper Shakers you bought from Pottery Bar. But scanning Pottery Barn’s product into your 3D printing software (and printing a replica) is technically not okay. 

According to Forbes, digital artist Joaquin Baldwin learned this the hard way. Baldwin used Shapeways, a 3D printing marketplace that prints your 3D files and sends you the finished product, to create a set of 3D-printed Final Fantasty VII figurines. Developer Square Enix, however, wasn’t too fond of that idea and issued a takedown notice to Shapeways.

Because 3D printing and scanning is just recently becoming popular and something that anyone can now do at home, there aren’t a whole lot of legal cases in which to base laws. However, according to Michael Weinberg of Public Knowledge, who wrote a white paper about legal issues with 3D printing, more and more small court cases will appear and will set legal precedents going forward. 

So what’s technically kosher in the world of 3D printing and scanning? According to Forbes the laws around 3D printing and scanning are complicated. If an object is purely decorative, it’s protected by copyright. Objects that serve a purpose, are, instead, covered by patents. Weinberg uses vases as an example, saying that a vase serves a purpose – to hold water and flowers – but it can also be a work of art. In this case, the vase itself isn’t a matter of copyright, but the designs on the outside are. Another example is a doorstop. “If the individual were to reproduce the entire doorstop, including the print and carvings, the original manufacturer may be able to bring a successful claim for copyright infringement,” Weinberg told Forbes. “However, if the individual simply reproduced the parts of the doorstop that he cared about – the size and angle of the doorstop – and omitted the decorative elements (the print and carving), it is unlikely that the original manufacturer would be able to successfully bring a copyright claim against the copier.”

Although we don’t necessarily condone it, we have a feeling that if you do end up 3D-scanning something with a unique design, and 3D-printing it for your own use, you’ll probably be okay as long as you don’t share the digital file online. You may want to avoid taking photos of the object and posting it on Instagram, too, just to be safe.

As desktop 3D printers and scanners become more common, the question of copyright will become more prevalent. Until there are clear-cut rules, use some discretion before scanning and printing a design that’s not yours. 

Emerging Tech

How 3D printing has changed the world of prosthetic limbs forever

When he was 13 years old, Christophe Debard had his leg amputated. Here in 2019, Debard's Print My Leg startup helps others to create 3D-printed prostheses. Welcome to a growing revolution!
Digital Trends Live

Digital Trends Live: Drone delivery OK’d, Aerosmith’s immersive concert, and more

Join DT Live as we discuss the FAA's approval of delivery drones, 3D-printing advances in prosthetics and bike helmets, geoengineering against climate change, identity management, Aerosmith's immersive THX concert, and more.
Photography

Free your digital memories, and frame them, with the best photo printers

Printed photos are experiencing a revival at the moment, but you don’t need to go to a special lab. Here’s our favorite options for making quality prints, from pocket-sized printers to wide-format photo printers capable of spitting out…
Smart Home

Virtually walk through dream homes with Zillow’s new A.I.-powered 3D home tours

Home sellers and real estate agents listing properties on Zillow's home marketplace now can add 3D tours for free to their listings. Zillow 3D Home uses artificial intelligence to create tours with 360-degree panoramic photos.
Product Review

Still waiting for a new Mac Pro? Corsair’s mini PC has all the power you'll need

With a modern 12-core Intel Core i9-9920X processor, Nvidia’s RTX 2080 Ti graphics, and 32GB of RAM, the Corsair One Pro is designed to woo creatives who demand more power from Apple’s Mac Pro. Like the Mac Pro, the best part of this PC…
Computing

Tablet or notebook? Our favorite 2-in-1 PCs give you the best of both worlds

If you can’t decide if you need a tablet or a notebook, then don’t bother. The best 2-in-1 laptops are both, and they can provide all the power you need. Check out our list for the best 2-in-1s for any user.
Computing

Amal and George Clooney want to change the world. Can Microsoft help?

Microsoft and The Clooney Foundation for Justice (CFJ) unveiled the TrialWatch app Thursday morning, a new tool in CFJ’s ongoing TrialWatch effort to shine a light on injustice in courts around the globe – which too often are simply…
Computing

These are the best 13-inch laptops you can buy right now

With so much choice out there, how do you know which are the best 13-inch laptops? They should have beautiful screens, long battery life, and remain light and portable. This is a list of our favorites.
Computing

These gaming monitors will transport you to another dimension

What are the best gaming monitors you can buy right now? We select five that are all priced under $900 packing premium technologies like G-SYNC and FreeSync, high resolutions, and fast refresh rates.
Photography

Luminar Accent A.I. can now recognize faces for more natural instant edits

Want to edit faster? Skylum Luminar's latest update enhances the Accent A.I. to use machine learning for instant enhancements. The tool now recognizes faces for more natural skin tones along with other enhancements.
Computing

Intel’s 10nm desktop dreams may be dead — new road map pushes them beyond 2022

Intel may never release a competitive 10nm CPU on desktop if a new roadmap is to be believed. It suggests that Intel will rely on its 14nm process to at least 2022 and perhaps even beyond.
Computing

Turn your desk into a command center with the best ultrawide monitors

Top of the line ultrawide monitors have the deepest curves, the sharpest colors, and the biggest screens on the market. You’re going to want one, sooner or later. So why not sooner? These are the best ultrawide monitors you can buy now.
Computing

Corsair’s Ironclaw, Glaive gaming mice are tuned for performance and comfort

Corsair is adding wireless capabilities to its Ironclaw gaming mouse this year, while the Glaive RGB Pro has been updated for maximum comfort with thoughtful ergonomics. Both mice feature accurate tracking and durable buttons.
Computing

These cheap laptops will make you wonder why anyone spends more

Looking for a budget notebook for school, work, or play? The best budget laptops, including our top pick -- the Asus ZenBook UX331UA -- will get the job done without digging too deeply into your pockets.