A piece by i.Materialise got us thinking about object copy protection. In their post, Joris Peels tells the tale of how a Thingiverse user posted a set of game pieces suitable for printing. The catch was that these pieces were, for all intents, a replacement set for the popular Settlers of Catan board game! It’s one thing to post generic items like coin holders or doorstops, but we’re venturing into unknown territory when clearly copyrighted objects such as these are replicated.
This is a very difficult challenge, because there’s no clear way to enforce copy protection of objects. You can’t put a security dongle on objects, and watermarks are easily ignored – or even erased. No effective permission system exists within 3D file formats, other than protecting the files themselves. Even when items are printed, their structure can be accurately captured using 3D scanners.
Other digital media have undergone the same challenge. The music and film industries still seek adequate solutions, but the trend seems to be to avoid copy protection mechanisms entirely and depend on pricing that people are willing to pay. Maybe the same solution will evolve in the 3D world.
We think we’re going to struggle with this question increasingly in the future. With luck, no one will come forward claiming rights for doorstops.
What ideas do readers suggest for protecting objects?