Product Design Piracy and The Product Bay

As Seth Godin says, “on the internet, piracy is not your problem, obscurity is”.

We talked a while back about what is going to happen when product design files start to appear on Pirate Bay and there was alot of discussion going back and forth with many references to what the ‘music industry’ has gone through and how this may be reflected in product design.

Josh Judkins recently pointed me into the direction of a new site which may be positioning itself to begin the torrent. The Product Bay by Peter Sunde who has some involvement with The Pirate Bay and has had much experience dealing with issues of intellectual property, copyright and etc. Although there is no index yet of files to access on the Product Bay they do point to Thingiverse as a starting point where people are sharing their own files.

But when the Product Bay (or similar) goes live will it be the equivalent of the blockbuster hits that get pirated? or the lesser known designs that sit further down the long tail? My bet, and I figure Seth Godin may agree, is that until you start getting mainstream press people are not going to even know if your design is worth downloading and 3D printing or laser cutting and will not bother.

This does not mean you/we do not need to protect your designs, but the cost of a patent would be prohibitive for most emerging designers and may not even stop the next wave of Shanzai products. So maybe until your designs get on the mainstream press radar (that may also get you on the piracy radar) perhaps the best thing to do would be to promote your designs through sharing?

Or perhaps more importantly to quote Harold Jarche slightly out of context“The challenge …. is figuring out the 90% that we should give away for free and the 10% that has market value and that we can charge for.”

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Patents are worthless unless you have the resources to defend them and as we’ve seen with the music, movie and print… who do have the resources, their track record for removing stuff from such sources as Pirate Bay are nill.

I do agree, products that are well known will be the first to be searched, and hence requested in enough numbers to warrant a pirated version. What I think this means for designers is a double edged sword. It can be a great way to become recognized because it’s a popularity pole outside of the mainstream that can lead to mainstream acceptance but at the same time, the lost revenue from well known designers could mean they release less products or share less of the knowledge.

A wider question would be hackers, will there be a day that my server, or even that of Ponoko or Thingiverse get hacked for all their designs? I think this is a very real possibility that we should all prepare for. You can only have so many open source designs before people start asking (searching) for more private things. Just like the Pentagon gets hacked into generates wide press releases, so would such a hit… and at the end of the day, hackers hit servers for the challenge and dibs.

Jon @

Interesting point
especially if the files on the site are modified or replaced with something entirely different? You attempt to laser cut A but get B?

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