New site helps navigate legal aspects of 3D printing

You wouldn’t download a car, would you?

A 3D printer from Stratasys 3D

A 3D printer from Stratasys 3D

While Australia’s war on file-sharing continues, the rapid decrease in the cost of consumer-grade 3D printers is opening up new areas for copyright conflict.

A team at the University of Melbourne’s School of Culture and Communications has launched an online guide that is intended to help navigate both the legal and practical aspects of 3D printing.

3DPrintingInfo.org includes a scorecard that assesses major sites that house collections of 3D-printing resources, including models, tutorials and online marketplaces. In addition to rating scope, ease of use and curation, the scorecards assesses the content licences, terms of service, privacy and security of each service.

The site also includes a series of brief guides to the legal aspects of 3D printing, including copyright, liability, safety and patents.

Analyst firm Gartner in September predicted that worldwide shipments of 3D printers will reach 496,475 units in 2016 — up 103 per cent from the 244,533 3D printers it was forecasting would ship in 2015.

Gartner has predicted that worldwide shipments will more than double every year between 2016 and 2019, reaching 5.6 million 2019.

3DPrintingInfo.org received research funding from the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) and built on research from the Melbourne Networked Society Institute. The project was led by Dr Luke Heemsbergen and Dr Robbie Fordyce.

“The free resources are the result of extensive multidisciplinary research in Australia, and beyond, that identified emerging issues and trends within the consumer 3D printing space such as who owns the designs you share, the ones you modify and how they can be used by others,” Heemsbergen said in a statement.

“Interviews with experts and industry leaders, and complex modeling of the sharing patterns of objects online also raised a number of new issues for consumers,” Fordyce said.

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