3D Printing Technology Opens Potentially Thorny Legal Issues

  • Paramount Pictures recently issued a cease and desist order to a 3D replicator of “Super 8” cubes.
  • Todd Blatt, an engineer from Baltimore, replicates interesting devices and props he sees in movies (such as the cubes from Paramount’s “Super 8”), sends the digital models to 3D printer Shapeways, and then sometimes sells the resulting metal or plastic models to fans online.
  • New fronts in copyright law are developing as digital tools increasingly encroach on the physical world. Emergence of low-cost 3D printers and software will continue to push these issues.
  • From a copyright viewpoint, this case illustrates how 3D printers will possibly impact product licensing the way the MP3 codec impacted the music industry.
  • This may raise some interesting near future questions regarding how film props will need to be legally classified (especially in terms of patent, copyright and fair use laws).