Although Gartner does not use this term, 3D printing away from control seems to underlie its prediction that “By 2018, 3D printing will result in the loss of at least $100 billion per year in intellectual property globally.”…

Does this estimate of “cost” factor in the countervailing cost of DRM and stupid IP protection policies on society? I doubt it.

IP infringement violates the law. Reverse engineering does not; it is perfectly legal if done properly….
I have written about how 3D scanning is the Achilles Heel of IP protection for 3D printing because it makes an end run around DRM and is a form of legitimate reverse engineering. A research team at the University of California Irvine recently demonstrated another legitimate, perfectly legal DRM endrun….The team, led by Professor Mohammad Al Faruque, director of UCI’s Advanced Integrated Cyber-Physical Systems lab,used a smartphone to record the operation of a Material Extrusion printer as it printed a part. By reverse engineering the recorded sounds, the team recreated the part with almost 90% accuracy.”

Very clever. Congratulations.

To prevent this type of reverse engineering, Professor Al Faruque suggested outlawing smartphones from the vicinity of 3D printers and mixing the real sounds of the operating 3D printer with white noise, to prevent the recording of a clean signal for reverse engineering.

Banning cell phones near printers: A good example of a bad idea.

Licenses give designers control. 
Better licenses will give designers better control. 
Nothing will give designers complete control.

I’ve written DRM patents and developed DRM technology. DRM is not intrinsically evil, but it is is often counterproductive, and the cost to society (and to all the consumers who have to struggle with it) is significant.

There is a tragedy of the commons here: the benefits of IP laws and IP protection technologies accrue most directly to the IP holders, the social costs are borne by the rest of us. Our IP laws were created when the social benefits of IP protection were believed to outweigh the costs.

That was then. This is now. But who is going to change the law?

Is that the sound of 3D printed IP infringement?

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