Film props, 3D print & intellectual property…

Paramount issues cease & desist against an IP infringing 3D print.

When Todd Blatt, a mechanical engineer created a replica prop from the film Super 8, he unwittingly became the recipient of a cease and desist letter from Paramount Pictures’ Lawyers. Not wanting a legal fight he quickly withdrew the Super 8 Cube from sale at Shapeways. He explains:

“It was a replica white funky cube shaped object from their new movie. I complied. I don’t want to sit in a courtroom for the rest of the year. I am no longer offering these for sale, and am complying with Paramount’s demands. It’s purely just a fan creation and only one exists, which I ordered for myself before receiving the C&D letter. There is a company called Quantum Mechanix (QMx) which will be selling licensed replicas soon, and if you’re a fan you should order one from them.”

Its my belief that 3D printing should not be seen as a threat, but a challenge for innovation in business. If the world has learned anything from the issues of file sharing music, film and software, additive manufacturing shouldn’t be an awful cluster-shag, where no-one wins.

I hope film studios (and ultimately other industries too) will think outside the traditional merchandising business model and realise 3D printing and the Internet offer tremendous opportunities. Greater fan involvement and having a more immersive film experience is what will drive future film industry revenue.

Ultimately, there is a odd sense of irony in all this – that, Paramount Pictures who own the StarTrek franchise thats home to the popular replicator. Earl Grey – Hot anyone?

Via Techdirt & Hollywood Reporter via Torrentfreak.


David is an industrial designer from New Zealand. He contributes weekly 3D print articles for Ponoko. You can follow him on Twitter @dizymac

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3 Responses to “Film props, 3D print & intellectual property…”

  1. Nick Taylor Says:

    Any business that depends on restricting the flow of information to stay in business, needs to be put out of business as quickly as possible.

    The notion that you can sell “copies of information” is a completely stupid idea. Good luck to you if you can get away with it, but don’t expect reality to go along with it.

    So. On the subject of “threats”. It is my belief that capitalist systems that are optimised for scarcity, trying to impose new scarcities where they need not exist – in effect imposing monopoly-rents on unpoliceable domains… are a massive threat to humanity at large.

    It’s not that 3D printing (which is one of many technologies that destroy scarcity) is a threat to them, so much as they are a threat to us.

    Corporations do not have a god-given right to exist. People do.

  2. Donna Says:

    Nick: I’m a bit flabbergasted.

    “The notion that you can sell “copies of information” is a completely stupid idea. ”

    What do you think a Book is? Are you saying that the entire history of book publication and sales is a stupid idea, simply because we can now easily rip off the person who wrote it by using a scanner or some such?

    They were defending their intellectual property – it is their right to decide who can legally produce copies of their property – and it is their right to get as much money out of the transaction as they can negotiate – that’s what Capitalism is all about! A tremendous amount of effort goes into the creation of a product like Super 8, or any other media offering. Profits from sales of spinoff products are often part of the original Business Plan.

    Fans who create a single copy of a prop for cosplay and such are one thing. When somebody re-creates a prop and offers it for sale just as you are inking a marketing deal with another company for the exact same prop – of course the lawyers are going to issue a C&D. Just because you CAN rip off someone elses’ hard work doesn’t mean you SHOULD.

    The whole rest of the “threats” rant I don’t get…I suppose I should read around the blog some because it seems to be a continuation of another discussion?

  3. David Says:

    Its a contentious issue, I understand both sides as I’ve worked as a modeller in the film industry making both props and designing film merchandise. Incredible amounts of time and effort is expended to ensure fans can own a genuine quality piece of film history. I completely agree people should be paid for their intellectual property, but there are other issues at play here too:

    In my experience as a designer, intellectual property law is generally poorly understood, even by politicians. Recently in New Zealand, Melissa Lee a member of parliament voted in favour of new copyright legislation (which the UN states infringes on human rights) also tweeted about unknowingly violating copyright law.
    http://torrentfreak.com/kiwi-mp-called-out-as-pirate-after-passing-anti-piracy-law-110415/

    Sharing is in human nature and perhaps with the internet the reason the open source movement is so healthy. Unfortunately some people justify stealing by calling it sharing instead. I’m not saying thats whats happened in this case, I believe it was completely innocent and Blatt meant no harm. Certainly Donna I don’t believe he was trying to rip the studio off.

    The point perhaps I didn’t get across particularly well – is that there are better ways to do business in the digital age. Most people are generally good and there is plenty of evidence people will pay for things if they see value in a product and find it easy to purchase. Radiohead for example released their album ‘In Rainbows’ on their website. They allowed fans to pay what they thought it was worth. Sure some people paid $0, but others paid a lot more, in the end they still made a lot of money. iTunes is another success story in the music industry. Make it convenient for people and they will pay.

    While I certainly don’t condone stealing, what concerns me is established corporations throwing their weight around. I fear these sort of actions if left unchecked leave the potential for stifling of innovation and progress. I’m interested to hear peoples opinions on this issue, as I don’t expect this will be the last legal action taken against someone unwittingly violating copyright or patents.