August 10, 2016
A recent UK copyright law extension that applies to “artistic works” that are industrially manufactured is, according to Rick Falkvinge, founder of the UK’s Pirate Party, “a direct assault on the 3D printing revolution.” The extension will be for designed objects like furniture: Previously, these copyrights expired 25 years after the design’s invention. Now, they’ll last 75 years after the death of the designer.
Writing on the blog Privite Internet Access, Falkvinge explains his position through several arguments, including a differentiation between patent and copyright law which he argues is being abused through the extension. This results in a clash between 3D printing and copyright law:
“Furniture is normally protected by something known as a design patent and not by copyright, and this has enormous ramifications for 3D printing: when something is under patent, you’re absolutely and one hundred percent free to make copies of it for your own use with your own tools and materials. When something is under copyright, you are not. Therefore, this move is a direct assault on the 3D printing revolution.”
Ars Technica, reporting on the incident, garnered an email from legal expert Andrew Katz, who agrees with Falkvinge, saying:
“It would seem that this analysis is correct. It’s not something I’ve analysed with respect to design rights, but I’ve been waiting for something similar to happen with utility patents (which have a specific exemption for private implementation/use) with a view to attacking 3D printing.”
Those in the UK hoping to create their own chairs at some point within the next century will have to tread carefully. The best emerging form of personal manufacturing is 3D printing and copyright laws are shifting to block it in a severe manner. It seems that they can now be prosecuted for building their own chair with their own material and tools. As Falkvinge puts it:
“I argued five years ago at a business leader meeting that people would be sued out of their homes for manufacturing their own slippers from a drawing they found, just as they had been for manufacturing their own copies of music albums. Business leaders at that meeting laughed at me at first, realizing how ridiculous our laws in this area have become: completely out of touch with reality.”
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