Protection for Printing

An Analysis of Copyright Protection for 3D Printing

The rapid growth of 3D-printing technology has challenged the bounds of intellectual-property law—specifically, copyright. As the cost of 3D-printing technologies becomes more and more affordable, the threat of infringement grows. While it will be important for copyright owners to increase the enforcement of their rights, increased enforcement of licenses creates a tension between the growing 3D-printing community aiming to encourage the free exchange of ideas and the copyright owners hoping to maintain the return on their creation and investment. This Note will examine the need for copyright law to adapt in order to protect the rights of copyright owners against the growing popularity of 3D printing. Specifically, this Note looks at the challenges authors will face in litigating the rights of copyright owners under the Copyright Act of 1976, as well as how application of the anti-circumvention provision of the Digital Millennium Act to 3D printing will affect the debate between copyright owners and supporters of the open Internet. Finally, Part IV recommends that the challenges posed by the spread of 3D printing for litigating copyright infringement disputes should be combatted not just with legal measures, but also by working to transform the business practices of copyright owners themselves.

This Note, first published on January 24, 2017, switched party names when stating the holding on page 314. The party is Rural, not Feist. The current version available online reflects this correction.

The full text of this Note is available to download as a PDF.