Recently, I picked up this year’s Make: Ultimate Guide to 3D Printing to learn more about this exciting world. The MAKE guide has a lot of information to help you find the right 3D printer, but one story stood out to me. Cory Doctorow writes a great article about intellectual property (IP) and deliberate misuse of products. He ties this debate to previous IP battles involving VCRs and peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing.
Now, I understand that if I create and distribute files to print a knock-off toy (say…Mr. Potato Head), I will eventually receive a cease-and-desist letter (or worse) from the trademark and patent holder. But what if I create a replacement part for an appliance, solely for my own use? Some of those replacement parts can be pretty expensive, and I’d sure save money while getting something out of my investment in a 3D printer. Have I really infringed on the appliance company’s intellectual property by printing something for personal use? What if I print the same part for a friend?
Such questions will probably come up repeatedly as 3D printing becomes less expensive and more obtainable.