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.”
How long before we see ‘illegal’ product design files to download? And what should we do about it?
New release movies are available for download from various file sharing networks before they even hit the cinemas. Despite DRM and any other copyright protection put into music files they are instantly and widely spread across the net for free download seemingly as soon as the recordings are complete. Software applications and games are exactly the same, years of development are quickly absorbed and distributed in peer to peer networks without a dollar changing hands.
We can assume the same is going to happen with physical product design in the not too distant future, as the digital design process becomes ubiquitous, and the means of manufacture become distributed and democratized.
The Public Domain by James Boyle, looks to be an interesting new publication, billed as “introducing readers to the idea of the public domain and describes how it is being tragically eroded by our current copyright, patent, and trademark laws.” – In many ways, a call to arms for people to use the Creative Commons, the licensing system which you already use when either selling or giving away your .eps product plans on Ponoko.
Boyle’s book is available to buy physically, or to download for free as a .pdf, or indeed read online for free through the publishers’ (Yale University Press) website. I have started to read the book by the latter method and found the website very lucid and usable and the writing clear and straight forward. I particularly like Boyle’s point in the preface on the accessibility of this area of thought:
“Contrary to what everyone has told you, the subject of intellectual property is both accessible and interesting; what people can understand, they can change — or pressure their legislators to change… Every news story refers to intellectual property as ‘arcane,’ ‘technical,’ or ‘abstruse’ in the same way as they referred to former attorney general Alberto Gonzales as ‘controversial.’ It is a verbal tic and it serves to reinforce the idea that this is something about which popular debate is impossible. But it is also wrong.”
Boyle also writes on the Public Domain website about the benefits of simultaneously selling your book and giving it away. There’s a cracking video from Creative Commons at the bottom of that page, which makes a great introduction for those of us new to the concept.
I.P. law and copyright can be a slippery snake to wrestle with, especially if you are in a creative field.
Own-it North is a new project that provides intellectual property support and guidance to creative businesses (in the North and North West of England), but provides advice online accessible to all.
You do have to sign up and answer a few basic questions but then have access a range of free legal contract templates, articles, podcasts and factsheets available for download. free legal advice and a detailed FAQ section. There is also a great little glossary of legal terms so you can understand what you are signing away.
Also from Creative Commons which provide free tools that let authors, scientists, artists, and educators easily mark their creative work with the freedoms they want it to carry. You can use CC to change your copyright terms from “All Rights Reserved” to “Some Rights Reserved.”
Or if you just want someone to talk to you about it check out founder Larry Lessig at the TED conference.
Found thanks to Eric Poettschacher at shapeshifters