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Ernest Miller Ernest Miller pursues research and writing on cyberlaw, intellectual property, and First Amendment issues. Mr. Miller attended the U.S. Naval Academy before attending Yale Law School, where he was president and co-founder of the Law and Technology Society, and founded the technology law and policy news site LawMeme. He is a fellow of the Information Society Project at Yale Law School. Ernest Miller's blog postings can also be found @

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July 12, 2004

Hatch's Hit List #2 - 3D Printers

Posted by Ernest Miller

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).

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Hatch's Hit List | INDUCE Act


1. Juan Junos on August 14, 2004 01:38 PM writes...

STOP right now. I'm a 3D AutoCAD designer - 10 minutes ago I got online to research 3D printers & stereolithography in lieu of a purchase. OPERATIVE WORD 'PURCHASE' ... I have to spend so much time trying to deciper LAW that I can't PRODUCE. What happened to Gross Domestic PRODUCT; we never hear that phrase anymore. It went overseas. As a nation of CONSUMERS we no longer gestate product or production. Get out of my way. Before I can produce something original I have to practice on something that already exists.
Am I in trouble for taking a knobby-whatsit-block somebody cut up in woodshop and making a 3d model of it in Autocad class? Come on: we end up spending so much time thinking about our zippers we trip over dick.

I have to spend $595 bucks on a copyright law class in Graphic Art school to find out if I can print a Mona Lisa I acquired from a time-life book or elsewhere, spend 20 hours in photoshop 'morphing' it or otherwise modifying it to my needs or tastes; printing it on my Epson 9600, which cost me $5 grand; on canvas which cost another $350 bucks all of which I've borrowed on a loan I've taken against my $1/2 million dollar 900 sq ft shack, for a customer I don't give a damn what he plans to do with it: to keep the bank off my ass from foreclosing? No wonder the economy sucks. I'll be paying my student loans until I die and all the jobs meanwhile are being exported.

We are hamstringing ourselves people. What happened to all the time and money it took to just copy and print that mona lisa? To just get there? Hopefully I kept a few teachers employed, paper manufacturers, ink suppliers, bankers, printer maintenance workers, etc etc etc.... is keeping our economy, local and nationally, briefly afloat.
Mona isn't smiling.
Nobody is getting rich at the expense of big business by playing with all their techno toys.

Now let me get back to seeing how much in Debt I need to go to get a 3D Printer; which I KNOW will be usefull although how I haven't a clue. The end product is just a minor by-product of all the steps, time and money that preceed it.

We're very close to having, in reality, the replicators from star trek (no caps) if we don't stop to worry that Gene Roddenberry rises from the dead to collect his due, or his heirs and estate to ride our backs in actualizing an Idea.
If I create something, and sell it, I no longer own it and you can go wipe yourself with it for all I care. I just hope you don't expect a copyright for what you wipe on it.

"Mommy; come wipe me..."
Juan Junos
San Diego aug04

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