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Is copying popular designs so wrong?

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Imagine that you are visiting the website of an online shop and you come across an item that you love at first sight. The temptation to buy it is very strong, but the 3D printer behind you tells you a something else… Put your credit card away and go to Thingiverse or Instructables to see if someone has already released a project that you can copy or re-invent yourself with your own hands.

The makers’ new industrial revolution resembles to some extent the wave of music downloads that stunned the music industry some time ago. All that was only available from the shops until a moment ago suddenly becomes downloadable from the Internet. Of course, the process for making actual objects is a bit more complicated, but not impossible.

Real problems come up when copying famous designs. The designers might not like that copyright and intellectual property (if applicable) are so easily bypassed. This is a legitimate concern, a challenge taken on by Diederik Schneemann. The designer from Rotterdam presented his “Mash-Up” video at the Fuorisalone in Milan, raising a fundamental question: will 3D printing be the worst nightmare of copyright?

 

“I’m convinced there will be no way of stopping this 3D printing trend.More and more, designs will emerge on the Internet, making it hard, maybe even impossible to control the copyrights on every newly created or copied item posted on the Internet. Are we moving towards the next Napster of Design?”

 

It’s not easy to predict how this will go. Some industries, as we have already said  here, are not worried by the 3D printing phenomenon. Quite the opposite, they are trying to ride the wave. On the other hand, the registration of patents on technologies that are already used by makers could suffocate them. However, the “copyright design” is not the result of an industrial process, but of a creative process. And ideas cannot be caged.

Regardless of the 3D printing, each design isn’t exactly going to disappear quickly.  The actual proof comes from the fashion world, where designers have copied and revised models forever. Generating new ideas is a fundamental requirement in an industry that lives off continually alternating styles. Johanna Blakley says so in her famous  TED conference:

Who owns a look? That is a very difficult question to answer. It takes lots of lawyers and lots of court time, and the retailers decided that would be way too expensive.

The solution? Let ideas circulate freely. The success factor of a design product is not granted by industrial protection (except where counterfeiting is really obvious). If an item is fascinating and has a story to tell, people will be very willing to buy it. Copyright design still has a long life ahead.

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