The other week infamous BitTorrent site The Pirate Bay announced a new category for contraband digital media: Other/Physibles. The idea is that this category would hold 3D model files representing physical objects. Horrors! Not only will movies and music will be pirated, but now Everything Else!
Listen, it's just a category. And it's not even a new idea - two years ago we wrote of something called "The Product Bay" (since deceased, apparently) that attempted this same approach. Certainly digital 3D model files have been passed around between friends for some time now.
So is this event a big deal? We think it simply means this: in this century value is increasingly placed on digital representations over physical representations. The Pirate Bay's actions merely reflects that progression; they see value in digital representations, too.
But will we see the physical world pirated away? Likely not soon, as printing physical 3D models is still quite limited in capability. Materials, properties, speed of printing, color, texture and even file format quirks all mean there's only so much you can do. In fact, an inspection of TPB's list of physibles shows a short (20ish) list of odd bits, including objects from the already free-of-charge Thingiverse, a couple of unprintable possibly commercial 3D models and of course a pirate ship. Hardly anything to be worried about.
At least for now.