What is Hatch's Hit List? Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) has introduced the Inducing Infringment of Copyrights Act (IICA, née INDUCE Act) in the Senate. The bill would make it illegal to "intentionally induce" copyright infringement, but is worded so broadly that it would have all sorts of unintended consequences, one of which is to severely limit, cripple or kill innovation in many different fields. Hatch's Hit List is a daily exploration of some of the technologies and fields that the bill would likely affect. See also, Introducing Hatch's Hit List.
Today on Hatch's Hit List: 3D Printers
One of the points that I want to emphasize with Hatch's Hit List is the effect it will have on nascent technologies; those technologies that are just around the corner. It is precisely these devices and the innovation they represent that are most vulnerable to Hatch's law. These are new technologies that usually lack significant monetary backing to fight massive copyright lawsuits. They are not yet well-established so that people can immediately see their benefit. For example, anyone who uses a TiVo realizes what a revolutionary device it is. Those who haven't used one often think they are nothing more than a glorified VCR. In other words, nascent technologies are frequently technologies that we don't realize we need yet and would be easily crushed by INDUCE Act lawsuits.
3D printers are a perfect example of this sort of technology. They seem to be making a great deal of progress and there is a good probability that they will eventually reach the consumer market. See, for example, New USC Process Offers Faster, Cheaper 3D Printouts, 'Gadget printer' promises industrial revolution, and Entering the Era of Printable Devices?. 3D printers may revolutionize our lives in ways we can't imagine (or they may not, but that's not the point).
When 3D printers first reach the consumer market, what are they frequently going to be used for? Copyright infringement, of course. Very few people will ever master the skills to create even a basic CAD/CAM design. So the designs for the items their brand-new 3D printer will create will have to come from somewhere. Since the 3D printer market will initially be small, it is unlikely that there will be all that many companies selling designs. Infringement will be the obvious source for 3D printer designs. I mean, really, who wouldn't want to print out a collection of bootleg Garfield figurines if they could? I don't even want to think about the headaches this would cause eBay.
You can justify 2D printers with claims that people will write their own papers or print their own photographs. You can't say the same for consumer-grade 3D printers and, thus, they will surely induce people to infringe copyrighted designs, which means that Hatch's law will make them effectively illegal (at least for consumers).