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.”