MakerBot learns that 3D printing and copyright don't quite mix

It's trying to stop unauthorized prints of Thingiverse designs.

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AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

Trying to stop unauthorized 3D printing is like plugging a hole in a dam with your finger -- once the template for an object leaks out, it's virtually impossible to stop the flood of bootleg prints. And MakerBot is learning this the hard way. The company is asking makers to protect their copyrights after hearing of an eBay user selling 3D prints of others' Thingiverse objects, whether or not the creators gave permission. While MakerBot hopes to stop the culprit in this case, it believes that it's ultimately a designer's responsibility to crack down on misuse of the projects they own.

It's a well-meaning request, but it may be too optimistic. Remember how music labels freaked out at the thought of people making cassette tape copies of songs, but could never really stop it from happening? Yeah. So long as 3D printers exist and remain relatively open, it may be difficult to prevent unscrupulous printer owners from abusing copyright in the name of profit.

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