What Lawyers Might Like to Know about 3D Printing and the Law

Vol. 6 No. 4


Michael Weinberg is a vice president at Public Knowledge, a nonprofit digital advocacy group in Washington, D.C. He oversees PK Thinks, Public Knowledge’s in-house think tank, and is involved in a wide range of issues focusing primarily on copyright, issues before the FCC, and emerging technologies such as 3D printing and open source hardware.

Like the horse and the Internet before it,1 3D printing has the potential to raise questions about a number of areas of the law. Some of those questions will be novel. Others will merely reframe existing challenges. And still others will add urgency to long known but unresolved corners of the law. It is likely that 3D printing’s most immediate impact will be in intellectual property law. However, it is equally likely that the longer-term impact will expand well beyond intellectual property.

The Role of Copyright

One of the first major impacts of 3D printing on the law will be on public perception of intellectual property law. More specifically, it will help to remind the public that copyright is, in fact, a limited doctrine.

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