3D printing and copyright: back to square one


Michiel Rijsdijk

Although copying other people’s work has been around for ages (as painters of old will confirm) we seem to have entered an actual ‘age of copying’.

After many years, the resulting copyright issues have been solved (with time and pain). But now it seems to have started all over again with a new innovation: 3D printing.

3D printing is exactly what the name suggests. Instead of printing a piece of paper, or burning a CD or DVD, entire objects can be printed. Although the technical workings are (naturally) quite complex, the 3D printer uses a digital 3D model (a CAD file) to print the object. The technology has many possibilities. But, as with all other forms of printing and copying, there is a catch: copyright.

Most countries—if not all—are unprepared for the coming of 3D printing, and that includes the Netherlands. Under the Dutch Copyright Act (DCA), which features articles more than 100 years old, whenever a work is original and the personal ‘mark’ of its creator can be found in that work, the work is copyright protected. A work is defined in Article 10 which mentions, for example, books, music, movies, works of art, etc. A work of art can, basically, be anything.

3D printing, copyright protection, DCA, copyright infringement