The 3D printing landscape involves copyright, IP, and trademark considerations, making it a big mess for legal practitioners to try and understand. Quite frankly, copyright regulations simply haven’t caught up to this new technology. Rarely do they ever. It takes a lot for laws to catch up U.S. law provides that copyright protection exists in “original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression, now known or later developed, from which they can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.”
But is ownership so easily identifiable when it comes to 3D printing? Every person involved has had a hand in some critical essential aspect of the work, so it’s often hard to determine if any one participant in particular holds the undisputable copyright in the product. What’s likely to happen is that the law will register copyright to joint authors, meaning multiple people will hold copyright title to the work.
If you’re a designer or printer involved with a particular design, it’s important to copyright your work for your own protection. Reaching an agreement with the other parties involved should be relatively easy if you’re in on it together – but what happens when you upload your design to the internet, and a printer unknowingly downloads, prints, and start selling your work?