INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY: Free Software Foundation V’s 3DPrinting Copyright?

Our recent articles regarding the a new patent from Intellectual Ventures that attempts to assert ownership of DRM for 3DPrinting raises a plethora of validation issues, concerns, positive applications and negative speculations.

Technology Review’s explanation of how things would work:

“You load a file into your printer, then your printer checks to make sure it has the rights to make the object, to make it out of what material, how many times, and so on,” says Michael Weinberg, a staff lawyer at the nonprofit Public Knowledge, who reviewed the patent at the request of Technology Review. “It’s a very broad patent.”

It’s perhaps an obvious approach, which most engineers or designers could, and doubntless have, conceived. Leaving aside this familiar problem with the patent system, there’s an important expostulation that does not arise in the above exposition – that the printer has the power to disregard the users instructions: to refuse to print the object that you wish, because of the DRM in the file describing it, or there is no DRM at all.

This parallels the situation for computers, where DRM is based on the assumption that your computer is not fully under your control, and has the ability to ignore your commands. That’s one of the reasons why free software is so important: it is predicated on the idea that the user is always in control.

Against the background of the new 3DPrinting patent, this announcement from the Free Software Foundation (FSF) that it has recently certified a 3DPrinter made by Aleph Objects as “respecting the user’s freedom”, takes on a particular significance:

‘The Free Software Foundation (FSF) today awarded its first Respects Your Freedom (RYF) certification to the LulzBot AO-100 3D Printer sold by Aleph Objects, Inc. The RYF certification mark means that the product meets the FSF’s standards in regard to users’ freedom, control over the product, and privacy.’

The FSF’s criteria for making the award:

‘The desire to own a computer or device and have full control over it, to know that you are not being spied on or tracked, to run any software you wish without asking permission, and to share with friends without worrying about Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) – these are the desires of millions of people who care about the future of technology and our society. Unfortunately, hardware manufacturers have until now relied on close cooperation with proprietary software companies that demanded control over their users. As citizens and their customers, we need to promote our desires for a new class of hardware – hardware that anyone can support because it respects your freedom.’

That is, in making the award, the FSF has established that the LulzBot remains fully under the user’s control.

Until now, that hasn’t been an issue – there’s no practical way to stop someone from simply downloading a file and then printing it out on a compatible 3DPrinter. But the patent from Intellectual Ventures is the first step towards a time when users of 3DPrinters will be confronted with issues of control in exactly the same way that computer users are today.
Once 3DPrinting becomes more widespread, we can certainly expect pressure from manufacturers to bring in laws against unauthorized copying of physical objects and circumvention of 3D DRM schemes, just as the copyright industries have pushed for ever-harsher laws against file sharing.

They may even try to get open hardware systems like the LulzBot made illegal on the grounds that the user is fully in control – just as large multi-media companies would doubtless love to make computers running free software illegal?

That’s a battle they lost, largely because free software existed long before digital media files were sold to consumers.

We may not be so lucky next time…
Expanded from: http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20121017/06533320729/free-software-foundation-certifies-3d-printer-why-that-matters.shtml

3DPrint Patent Is Weak – New Scientist >

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(Image: Martine Roch/Flickr/Getty)

‘One of the greatest benefits of 3DPrinting technology – the ability to make replacements or parts for household objects like toys, utensils and gadgets – may be denied to US citizens thanks to the granting of a sweeping patent that prevents the printing of unauthorised 3D designs. It has all the makings of the much-maligned digital rights management (DRM) system that prevented copying of Apple iTunes tracks – until it was abandoned as a no-hoper in 2009.

US patent 8286236, granted on 9 October to Intellectual Ventures of Bellevue, Washington, lends a 3D printer the ability to assess whether a computer design file it’s reading has an authorisation code appended that grants access for printing. If it does not, the machine simply refuses to print – whether it’s a solid object, a textile or even food that’s being printed.

The piracy of 3D designs is indeed an emerging concern, and 3D object sharing – rather than file sharing – sites have already sprung up. While no 3DPrinter maker has adopted what might be called “3D DRM”, international treaties like the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement mean it is not out of the question.

“Clamping down on moves to 3DPrint handguns may fuel such moves, for instance.”

What has riled some tech commentators (here and here for instance) is the fact that Intellectual Ventures that does not make 3DPrinters at all, but simply trades in patent rights – a practice detractors call ‘patent trolling.’

The firm, run by Microsoft CTO Nathan Myhrvold, quietly files patents under the names of a great many shell companies (as this Stanford University analysis shows) and then licenses them to companies using the ideas it lays claim to, litigating if it has to. Intellectual Ventures is thought to hold more than 40,000 patents.

The new patent may face challenges to its validity, however, because it extends rights management beyond 3DPrinting to much older computerised manufacturing techniques, such as computer-controlled milling, extrusion, die casting and stamping.

Companies in those businesses are likely to have previously considered some kind of design rights authentication, says Greg Aharonian, of bustpatents.com in San Francisco. He says that museums were wondering how to protect 3D sculptures against printer piracy back in 2002 and that DRM was in the frame then. So Intellectual Ventures’ claim to novelty – a key part of whether any patent is determined to be valid and enforceable – looks weak…’

http://www.newscientist.com/blogs/onepercent/2012/10/patent-could-shackle-3d-printers-drm.html

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY: DRM for 3DP? >

Most 3DPrinting has been done in industry or by hobbyists who share their designs freely online. Now Intellectual Ventures, the company run by former Microsoft CTO Nathan Myhrvold, has been issued a patent on a system that could prevent people from printing objects using designs they haven’t paid for.

The patent, issued Tuesday by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, is titled Manufacturing control system and describes methods for managing object production rights.”

The patent basically covers the idea of digital rights management, or DRM, for 3DPrinters. Like with eBooks that won’t open unless you pay Barnes & Noble to use its Nook Reader, with Myhrvold’s technology your 3DPrinter won’t print unless you’ve paid up.

You load a file into your printer, then your printer checks to make sure it has the rights to make the object, to make it out of what material, how many times, and so on,” says Michael Weinberg, a staff lawyer at the non-profit Public Knowledge, who reviewed the patent – “It’s a very broad patent.”

The patent isn’t limited to 3DPrinting, also known as additive manufacturing. It also covers using digital files in extrusion, ejection, stamping, die casting, printing, painting, and tattooing and with materials that include “skin, textiles, edible substances, paper, and silicon printing.”

This is an attempt to assert ownership over DRM for 3DPrinting. It’s ‘Let’s use DRM to stop unauthorized copying of things’,” says Weinberg, author of It Will Be Awesome If They Don’t Screw it Up – a 2010 white paper on how intellectual property rights could harm the development of 3DPrinting.But Weinberg points out the big loophole to all this: “nothing says manufacturers have to use DRM.”

The manufacturing control patent, number 8,286,236, was filed back in 2008 and issued on October 9th to Invention Science Fund I, an arm of Myhrvold’s company.

Myhrvold’s timing of the 3DPrinting revolution could be perfect. The company MakerBot just opened the first retail store dedicated to 3DPrinters in Manhattan’s trendy SoHo neighbourhood. The second by company DeezerMaker opened within days afterwards in California.

People have begun accepting there is going to be wide access to [3DPrinting] machines, and they are going to be able to create a wide range of things,” says Michaels. “People will want to control that. This patent is people thinking about how to do it.”

Adapted from: http://www.technologyreview.com/view/429566/nathan-myhrvolds-cunning-plan-to-prevent-3-d/

Related articles:

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY: Update >

Industries that would almost certainly be put out of business by 3DPrinting, were it to become a household norm, are not going to go down without a fight, say legal experts. And what will be their weapon of choice? 

Intellectual property laws…

The presumed fear is that people will eventually be able to download CAD files, or create their own with advanced 3DScanners, of anything in the world: shoes, televisions, guitars, iPhones, and on, and on. Yes, 3DPrinter users would likely have to create these object piece-by-piece (as is currently the case). But in the end, they would still have a complete product. So just as the movie and music industries have gone after bit-torrent files and the sites that share them in their war against online piracy, so too will manufacturers attack CAD files and CAD file sharing, experts watching the space believe.

 

As incumbent companies begin to see small-scale 3DPrinting as a threat, they will inevitably attempt to restrict it by expanding intellectual property protections

” 

 

wrote Michael Weinberg, a staff lawyer for Public Knowledge, in a recently published white paper on 3DPrinting. “In doing so they will point to easily understood injuries to existing business models such as lost sales, lower profits, and reduced employment.”

Prepare for battle?

This is a cycle we’ve seen before. Weinberg notes that “incumbent companies” put up similar fights against the printing press, photo copiers, VCRs, and even the personal computer. In the case of the PC, writes Weinberg:

these interests pushed through laws like the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) that made it harder to usecomputers in new and innovative ways.”

The challenge for the fledgling 3DPrinting industry is to understand “how intellectual property law relates to 3DPrinting, and how changes might impact 3DPrinting’s future,” so that it will be ready to fight “before incumbents try to cripple 3DPrinting with restrictive intellectual property laws.”

While patent and trademark law may be used by established industries to trample 3DPrinting, both have a number of limitations that will make them difficult to use against home 3DPrinting, explains Weinberg. Instead, threatened industries will likely seek to strengthen copyright laws to make the recreation of objects — or even the creation of objects that perform the same function as a copyrighted item — illegal.

“Useful objects could be protected for decades after creation. Mechanical and functional innovation could be frozen by fears of massive copyright infringement lawsuits,” warns Weingberg. “Furthermore, articles that the public is free to recreate and improve upon today would become subject to inaccessible and restrictive licensing agreements.”

 

At the very least, says Weinberg, “rightsholders could insist that, in order to avoid liability, 3DPrinter manufacturers incorporate restrictive DRM that would prevent their printers from reproducing CAD designs with ‘do not copy’ watermarks.”

 

What next?

As mentioned, the goal of Weinberg’s paper is to prepare the 3DPrinting industry and its customers for a coming legal battle over this emerging technology. For the moment, however, 3DPrinting remains a niche.

 

If Weinberg is right, so-called incumbent companies will flex whatever muscles they can to stop that day from ever arriving…

Read more: http://www.digitaltrends.com/cool-tech/3d-printing-and-copyright-lawsuits/#ixzz294d3Vg9d

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY: 3DPrinting V’s Government? >

Maker Faire 2012 in New York last weekend was a great place to see, first hand, the products and processes behind a very promising technology that’s been receiving so much attention lately, and rightfully so. It’s clear to many that 3DPrinting isn’t merely a passing fad, but perhaps an evolutionary step in the field of manufacturing, if not revolutionary, and that has some people very nervous.

3DPrinting has the potential to shake up the consumer landscape as we know it.

Not today, not tomorrow, but down the line, home printing machines like those of RepRap, and Makerbot,  are only going to get more advanced and accessible. There will come a time when home users will be able to print everyday objects from home.

That’s an awesome thing, and perhaps scary to some.

3D Fan
 

3DPrinting has now captured headlines for just being itself – what it can do now, what it will do in the future – but just as many headlines are now being captured by 3DPrinting’s recent darker application’s, such as the hobbiest project to create a home 3DPrintable gun  by Defense Distributed.

“The Defense Distributed’s goal isn’t really about personal armament, it’s more the liberation of information,” they suggest in a video promoting Wiki Weapon. “It’s about living in a world where you just download for the thing you want to make in this life. As the printing press kind of revolutionised literacy, 3DPrinting is in its moment.”

Politics being what they are, you have to wonder if 3DPrinting will ultimately fulfill its potential of shaking up the industry and revolutionizing big industry, or if big industry, along with the government, will weigh the technology down with rules, regulations, and a ton of red tape. As CreativityGames.net points out, it’s only a matter of time before the lobbying for laws and restrictions begins.

“They put fear into people’s heads. These devices could be used by terrorists in malicious ways. Criminals could print guns and other weapons with them. Kids could make all manner of things they shouldn’t with them. Inevitably, someone does create something evil with one of these devices. Governments everywhere fall in line and enact laws heavily restricting their use. You now need a license to own one, and legally they must have restrictions on them that only allow them to print designs approved by the government…” – CreativityGames.net

Maker Faire 2012 showed some wonderful applications of this budding new technology – it would be shame if all the things we saw and the potential that exists were ultimately hamstrung by corporations and governments.’

Adapted From: http://hothardware.com/News/Threat-of-3D-Printing-Will-Governments-and-Big-Industry-Crush-a-Promising-Technology/

3DPrinted Gun Pt4: What Now? >

Click the image to view the full Stratasys letter to Defense Distributed

In a now ongoing saga Defense Distributed, a group of pro-gun lobbyists with the idea to 3DPrint a live firearm, has had its 3DPrinter seized by the machine’s manufacturer Stratasys.

Comments on the Wiki Weapons story so far have condemned the notion of a 3DPrinted gun – one that would enable anyone, anywhere, to manufacture their own weapon – with negative feedback, and now congratulatory remarks applauding Stratasys. Stratasys informed develop3d.com of their official line on the episode:

“Stratasys reserves the right to reject an order. Members of Defense Distributed, like any U.S. citizens, are able to follow the well-established federal and state regulations to manufacture, distribute or procure a firearm in [the U.S.A.].”

Matter resolved? Responsible company stepping in and doing the safe, legal and proper deed, it could perhaps be concluded as such. But, for example, a 3DPrinting professional visiting a school in South London, U.K., to show students 3DPrinting asked them what they could imagine printing for themselves… a student replied:

“Knives.”

Whilst some students may be intrigued by innovative cutlery design, and schoolboy bravado regarding an interest in weapons/ fast cars/ protein suppliments, we will inevitably face the forthcoming legislative backlash regarding the concern that if anyone can download a file to manufacture a weapon, and the technology continues to progress, ‘press to print products’ will degrade into a home 3DPrinting black market.

How to stop 3DPrinted home weaponary proliferation? Restricting C.A.D. files of weapons from appearing online seems to obvious and popular suggestion – although this simply leads to the difficultly in policing the internet.

The limitations of most available 3DPrinters, materials and processes, mean an readily accessible 3DPrinted threat to humanity is certainly not here yet: but as the inevitability of the wave of concern now seems set, so does the non-rhetorical that 3DPrint makers, bloggers and journalists need to pose to their audience:

 

“What should we do about this?”

 

3DPrinted Gun Pt1: Control Debate >
3DPrinted Gun Pt2: Campaign Stopped >
3DPrinted Gun Pt3: Seized >
3DPrinted Gun Pt4: What Now? >

3DPrinted Gun Pt3: Seized… >

Who would have thought it? Printing guns is frowned upon. Even in the U.S.

Cody Wilson, a law student at the University of Texas at Austin, found this out last week when Stratasys, the company that made the uPrint SE 3DPrinter he was leasing, got wind of his plans to design a 3DPrintable handgun and took back their equipment.

“The company is less than thrilled with what we’re doing. They’re trying to prevent me from breaking any laws with their product,” Wilson told New Scientist.

As reported previously on the DIMENSIONEXT blog, Wilson and friends founded a group called Defense Distributed to promote ideas about universal gun ownership.

If you build it…

In a letter to Wilson, lawyers for Stratasys cited his lack of a federal firearms manufacturer’s licence as their reason for the repossession, adding that it does not knowingly allow its printers to be used for illegal purposes. Wilson countered that his group’s aim is to disseminate a printable gun design online, not print guns…

Stratasys didn’t beleive that: Defense Distributed’s stated aims include the building of two prototypes of differing complexity that can be printed on a uPrint SE. If the guns work, the group will modify the designs for use on entry-level 3DPrinters like those of the RepRap Project.

The plans are limited to C.A.D. files, no physical prototype exists, but if Wilson and company manage to build the first fully printable gun, they will risk more than just running afoul of the law. Bullet propellants can create temperatures of up to 1000 °C. The powdered nylon that entry-level 3DPrinters use for construction, called ABS, cannot cope with that.

“The gunpowder explosion will probably be too much for ABS and other plastics in low-end printers,” says Stuart Offer of 3DPrinting firm 3T RPD in Newbury, UK. In all likelihood the gun would be destroyed, perhaps even blowing up in the shooter’s hands, after firing no more than a few rounds.

Fire when ready

3D printers exist that fuse metal powders using laser or electron beams to produce sturdy, solid objects. But those machines cost around £500,000, says Offer, who uses them to make driver roll hoops for Formula 1 cars. And assembling a gun isn’t like snapping together Lego pieces – each part must fit and move precisely.

3DPrinters that fuse metal could make gun components, but those parts would not make ready-to-fire guns, says Dan Johns, an additive-manufacturing engineer based in Bristol, UK. “The parts would need final, expert machining.”

Still, as prices for more sophisticated printers fall, printing functional weapons is likely to become an affordable prospect. When that happens, governments will be faced with a decision…

Could they lean on internet service providers to seek out and delete gun design files as they circulate online, as some ISPs are now asked to police music and movie file-sharing?

That wouldn’t work, says Wilson: “We know that such efforts will be totally futile, with only random and disproportionate enforcement.”

Another possibility would be to more tightly regulate ammunition so that shooters must get a license before they can purchase bullets. But Wilson sees a way around even this: print your own ammo. If the gun project has even modest initial success, he says he expects to get working on this too…

“3DPrintable ammunition would be a joy to pursue.”


Adapted from:

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn22323-diy-gun-project-misfires-as-3d-printer-is-seized.html