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Fabricated: The New World of 3D Printing by Hod Lipson, Melba Kurman

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Chapter 12

Ownership, safety, and new legal frontiers

Law can be one person’s protection and another person’s hindrance. Especially in laws that attempt to define philosophical issues such as safety or ownership. I experienced this first-hand while teaching a special summer seminar for high school students interested in design and engineering. The week-long curriculum taught product design principles using simple design software and our lab’s 3D printer. The plan was that each student would design a product, name it, describe its commercial value and finally, post it for sale on Shapeways.

At the end of the week, students had created a rich variety of product designs. On the last day of class, I demonstrated the final step: Each student would upload their product design file to Shapeways where it would be sold online.

One student, who at the start of class had cheerfully showed his friend how to jailbreak his iPhone so he could download free music, indignantly raised his hand: “But if I upload my product design file onto the Internet, what if somebody just downloads it and makes a bunch of free copies without paying me for them?”

Another student said that maybe she shouldn’t upload her product design after all. She wasn’t sure whether the ornate iPhone holder for bicycle handlebars was secure enough to prevent someone’s phone from slipping and shattering on the street. Another student explained that he didn’t care so much if someone used the files for the 3D printed puzzle he had ...

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