The socio-legal aspects of 3D printing: Between “chaos” and “control”

Socio-legal aspects bookNot so long ago 3D printing was being discussed alongside the internet, file sharing and digital currencies as a sign of the beginning of an era of post-control and post-scarcity.

There were fears that governments would struggle to regulate the activities of a new generation of “prosumers” (producer-consumers) and that economic and legal certainties would be challenged by an increase in the decentralised “free” supply of goods.

Last night, at the Information Law and Policy Centre, Dr Angela Daly and Dr Dinusha Mendis presented a more nuanced view of the prospects of 3D printing as a “disruptive” technology to mark the launch of Daly’s new book, Socio-Legal Aspects of the 3D Printing Revolution.

Daly, a research fellow at Queensland University of Technology Faculty of Law, shared findings from postdoctoral research at the Swinburne University of Technology considering the legal aspects of 3D printing from the standpoint of the US, UK-EU and Australian legal systems.

s200_angela.dalyDaly’s transnational lens enabled her to identify a number of divergent legal approaches to 3D printing in relation to exceptions to infringement, intermediary liability, copyright and DMCA takedowns.

She found that the legal implications of 3D printing were hard to generalise despite attempts at the harmonisation of international law. More often the legal status of 3D printing was both nationally and scenario specific. To this end, Daly noted that it would also be interesting to research how legal jurisdictions in emerging economies were tackling 3D printing.

Focussing particularly on the potential problems created for Intellectual Property law by 3D printing, Daly concluded that the technology was neither leading to “total chaos” nor “total control”.

She highlighted that 3D printing has not yet become a mainstream practice – despite entry level 3D printers selling for around £500, far fewer people own one than they do a smartphone or computer. Daly also emphasised that incumbent businesses and companies are incorporating 3D printing into their business models.

She stated, therefore, that although there was some chaos around the edges – such as the ability for people to print 3D guns – the overall picture was that from a socio-legal perspective the technology was not currently particularly ‘disruptive’.

Dinusha MendisDaly’s position was reinforced by a presentation from Dr Dinusha Mendis, Co-Director of the Centre for Intellectual Property Policy and Management (CIPPM) at Bournemouth University. Mendis has conducted research on the Intellectual Property and Copyright implications of 3D printing including work which was commissioned by the UK government’s Intellectual Property Office.

Of fundamental concern here is the potential illegal copying and use of the computer-aided design (CAD) files required to print objects in 3D. Her research identified hundreds of online platforms for the distribution of 3D printing files which were providing access to hundreds of thousands of designs.

Mendis’ research into online platforms reveals that interest in 3D printing has grown immensely between 2008 and 2014, but she identified limitations to the spread of the practice.

Potential users do not always have access to the right materials, funds to be able to purchase more sophisticated printers or the legal knowledge to license their work. Moreover, companies and businesses in this field informed her that there was currently little commercial impact on either automotive or domestic products. They predicted that 3D printing would remain limited for the next five to ten years.

For both Mendis and Daly, then, 3D printing has not yet lived up to initial hype over its ‘disruptive’ potential. Mendis recommended a ‘wait and see’ approach to UK government, concerned that legislating too hastily in this area might stifle creativity.

Nevertheless, as 3D printing technology improves and becomes cheaper, it might become the focus of increasing interest for legal scholars in the future.

Further Reading

A. Daly (2016) Socio-Legal Aspects of the 3D Printing Revolution, Palgrave MacMillan: UK
D. Mendis (2015) A Legal and Empirical Study into the Intellectual Property Implications of 3D Printing.
D. Mendis (2014) “Clone Wars”: Episode II – The Next Generation: The Copyright Implications relating to 3D Printing and Computer-Aided Design (CAD) Files. Law, Innovation and Technology, 6 (2), 265-281.
D. Mendis (2013) ‘The Clone Wars’ – Episode 1: The Rise of 3D Printing and its Implications for Intellectual Property Law – Learning Lessons from the Past?,  European Intellectual Property Review, 35 (3), 155-169.

Addressing the challenge of anonymous sources in the digital age

Dr Aljosha Karim Schapals, research assistant at the Information Law and Policy Centre, reports from the launch of a new book by Eric Barendt, Emeritus Professor of Media Law at UCL, on anonymous speech in the context of literature, law and politics.

On 28 June, Professor Eric Barendt launched his new book ‘Anonymous Speech: Literature, Law and Politics’ at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (IALS). His book critically examines the arguments for and against anonymity, which in the context of online communications draw attention to complex and important moral and legal questions.

It is on this basis that Barendt started outlining the pros and cons of anonymous speech, both online as well as offline: on the one hand, the use of pseudonyms has enabled great writers such as Jane Austen to publish anonymously and to have their privacy protected on the grounds of gender and socio-economic class considerations. Furthermore, anonymity allows writers to have their work considered solely on the basis of its merits rather than the additional ‘baggage’ that comes with being an established writer.

On the other hand, however, anonymity can be used to deceive audiences or inflict harm. Barendt stressed that anonymity on the Internet can encourage more socially disinhibited behaviour leading to hate speech, threats of rape and violence as well as cyberbullying.

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What is the impact of the Brexit vote on the Investigatory Powers Bill?

IP bill 2 copyThe Investigatory Powers Bill is currently proceeding through parliament – its second reading in the House of Lords took place on Monday 27 June.

Readers may have missed reports on the Lords debate amidst financial losses, Labour Party resignations, the Conservative Party leadership race and, of course, England’s embarrassing exit from Euro 2016 (among other things).

Given the ongoing political uncertainty and distractions after the Brexit vote, Open Rights Group campaigners have called on the government to halt the passage of the Bill on the basis that it cannot be adequately scrutinised by parliamentarians, the media and the public.

The Open Rights Group suggests that the passage of the Bill could be affected by the political crisis – the Bill could be accelerated or delayed depending on whether a General Election is called.

Ongoing legal cases may also affect its passage – particularly the impending European Court of Justice ruling on a case brought by MPs Tom Watson and David Davis in relation to the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (DRIPA). In the Lords debate, Lord Butler described the DRIPA ruling as “hanging over the whole issue”.

Elements of DRIPA – emergency legislation passed in 2014 – have been included in the Investigatory Powers Bill. If the ECJ upholds a decision by the High Court in July 2015 that the sections on self-authorised access and bulk retention of data breach fundamental EU Charter rights under Articles 7 and 8, then this could have a significant impact on the IP Bill.

It is likely that any temptation to ignore ECJ rulings relevant to the IP Bill (and more generally) in light of the leave vote will be resisted as any failure to comply with current EU treaty obligations could possibly provide a pretext for greater EU action against the UK to speed up Brexit. Although there is no mechanism to formally expel the UK from the EU, indirect action could be explored which might put pressure on the UK’s control of the exit process through Article 50.

In the Lords debate, there was disagreement over the impact of the leave vote on the Bill. Lord Rosser noted that the vote to leave the EU had “added to the complexity” of the Bill due to uncertainties over European cooperation on security issues, but the Advocate General for Scotland, Lord Keen of Elie did not believe that any changes to the Bill would be required in light of the Brexit vote.

For the time being, the Bill continues its path to Royal Assent – the House of Lords committee stage is due to begin on 11 July.

Whistleblowers and journalists in the digital age

Snowden

Dr Aljosha Karim Schapals, research assistant at the Information Law and Policy Centre, reports on a research workshop hosted by the University of Cardiff on Digital Citizenship and the ‘Surveillance Society’.

A workshop led by researchers at the Cardiff School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies (JOMEC) on 27th June in London shared the findings of an 18 month ESRC funded research project examining the relationships between the state, the media and citizens in the wake of the Snowden revelations of 2013.

It was the concluding event of a number of conferences, seminars and workshops organised by the five principal researchers: Dr Arne Hintz (Cardiff), Dr Lina Dencik (Cardiff), Prof Karin Wahl-Jorgensen (Cardiff), Prof Ian Brown (Oxford) and Dr Michael Rogers (TU Delft).

Broadly speaking, the Digital Citizenship and the ‘Surveillance Society’ (DCSS) project has investigated the nature, opportunities and challenges of digital citizenship in light of US and UK governmental surveillance as revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Touching on more general themes such as freedom of expression, data privacy and civic transparency, the project aligns with the research activities of the Information Law and Policy Centre, which include developing work on journalism and whistleblower protection, and discussions and analysis of the Investigatory Powers Bill. Continue reading

What is the impact of Brexit on data protection and the GDPR?

A consensus already appears to be emerging among legal commentators that many UK organisations will need to comply with the provisions of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation regardless of the progress of the UK’s path to Brexit.

The GDPR was due to be adopted by the UK in May 2018 after a long process of EU legislative reform. As soon as the UK officially leaves the EU, in theory it is possible that the GDPR could be ignored – data protection is already written into UK law in the Data Protection Act 1998. In practice, however, if the UK continued to be part of the European Economic Area then the UK would have to abide by GDPR.

Moreover, as Andrew Cormack points out, any organisation outside the EU that wishes to process the data of “data subjects who are in the Union” will also have to abide by GDPR (Article 3(2)). This would be relevant to a number of UK organisations who need to process the data of EU clients, customers, students etc.

Further, any EU organisation sending personal data to the UK as a non-member state would no longer be able to guarantee that there was “adequate protection” of data in the UK, unless the UK sought to obtain a declaration to the contrary.

The position of the UK vis-à-vis GDPR was summarised by the ICO in a statement published in response to the referendum result:

“If the UK is not part of the EU, then upcoming EU reforms to data protection law would not directly apply to the UK. But if the UK wants to trade with the Single Market on equal terms we would have to prove ‘adequacy’ – in other words UK data protection standards would have to be equivalent to the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation framework starting in 2018.”

It is likely, therefore, that elements of the GDPR will be incorporated into UK law however Brexit progresses. Both Anya Proops QC and Eduardo Ustaran argue that any UK business which provides services into the EU will need to understand and comply with GDPR.

Brendan Van Alsenoy: I tweet therefore I am … subject to data protection law?

In this guest blog post, Brendan Van Alsenoy – legal researcher at the Centre for IT and IP Law, University of Leuven – analyses the scope of the personal use exemption under the new EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

A note with regard to the relevance of the GDPR to the UK: this post was written before the EU referendum result on 24th June. For the ICO’s statement on the potential regulatory implications of a UK exit from the EU please see this link.

The blog post was originally posted on the CiTiP blog at KU Leuven. It is based on a draft paper included in the CiTiP Working Paper Series. You can follow the CiTiP on Twitter here.


In less than 30 years, individuals have transcended their role as passive “data subjects” to become actively involved in the creation, distribution and consumption of personal data. Unless an exemption or derogation applies, individuals are – at least in theory – subject to data protection law.

The evolving role of the individual

We use information and communication technologies every day. Mobile devices tell us where to eat, who to meet and how to get there. We share pictures, post videos and tweet reviews. We google everything and everyone.

With all these processing capabilities at our fingertips, the question can be asked: are we subject to EU data protection law?

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Exploring the potential impact of Brexit from the EU on the UK’s Communication Industries

The Information Law and Policy Centre is contributing to an Exeter University project which considers the impact of a possible Brexit from the EU on the UK’s communication industries. The Centre has assisted two stakeholder workshops with the project team, led by Professor Alison Harcourt.

On 21 June, a data protection symposium will communicate two policy briefings on EU data protection legislation to stakeholders in the field. It will also create a forum for scenario building exercises to gauge how stakeholders will react to policy-making alternatives.

You can read Alison Harcourt’s briefing paper on ‘Cross-border data transfer‘ which will form the basis of the symposium discussion on the project’s website.

Last month, a similar symposium considered the theme of cross-border broadcasting. The event focused on scenario building exercises, with John Howell leading SWOT analyses of the key factors affecting the cross-border broadcasting sector.

Catherine Barnard (Professor of European Union Law at the University of Cambridge) also gave a presentation to stakeholders about the implications of invoking Article 50 in the scenario of the UK voting to leave the EU.

You can read Alison Harcourt’s three policy briefings about Cross border television, the UK’s role in EU policy-making, and How Brexit might affect EU AVMS policy-making. You can also read a report of the Workshop Findings.

The project is part of the UK in a Changing Europe initiative.

The Centre’s researchers ‘on tour’ this summer

Freedom of Expression conference South Korea 14-06-16 web 2

Members of the Information Law and Policy Centre will be sharing their research and expertise at several international events over the coming week.

Centre Director Dr Judith Townend visited Japan to present on social media law in the UK at the annual International Communications Association conference in Fukuoka on Saturday. She visited Seoul this week to participate in the following events:

  • Tuesday 14th June: Freedom of Expression with Regard to Terror, Right to be Forgotten & Social Media, Chung Ang Law School
  • Thursday 16th June: Media Law Forum, Korean Press Arbitration Commission

Meanwhile Dr Christina Angelopoulos was in Brussels last week at EuroDig 2016. The event, organised by the European Dialogue on Internet Governance, focused on topics around “Embracing the digital (r)evolution”.

She participated in a panel session on “The rules in the digital world – economy v human rights” and was a ‘key participant’ in a session on “Intermediaries and human rights – between co-opted law enforcement and human rights protection”.

On Thursday 16th June, Christina will be contributing to a workshop organised by Marietje Schaake MEP on: “Privatising the rule of law online? Freedom of speech, copyright and platforms in the digital single market”. She will be speaking on a panel discussing privatised law enforcement and copyright enforcement.

Do introduce yourself to Judith or Christina if you are attending the events this Thursday and you are interested in their work. You can also contact them on Twitter: @jtownend and @cjangelopoulos.

Upcoming Event: 3D Printing in Law and Society

The Information Law and Policy Centre at IALS is pleased to announce the following lecture and book launch:

  • Date: Tuesday, 12 July 2016, from 18:00 to 19:00
  • Location: Institute for Advanced Legal Studies (IALS), University of London
  • Speaker: Dr Angela Daly, Vice-Chancellor’s Research Fellow, Queensland University of Technology Faculty of Law; Research Associate, Tilburg Institute of Law, Technology and Society
  • Discussant: Dr Dinusha Mendis, Co-Director, Centre for Intellectual Property Policy and Management (CIPPM), Bournemouth University
  • Please click here to book via the IALS Eventbrite page

Additive manufacturing or ‘3D printing’ has emerged into the mainstream in the last few years, with much hype about its revolutionary potential as the latest ‘disruptive technology’ after the Internet to destroy existing business models, empower individuals and evade any kind of government control. This lecture will examine some of these themes from a socio-legal perspective, looking at how various areas of law (including intellectual property, product liability, gun laws, data privacy and fundamental/constitutional rights) interact with 3D printing theoretically and in practice and comparing this interaction to that of the Internet before it. Despite rhetoric proclaiming that it is ushering in the end of government control and corporate-enforced scarcity, 3D printing, especially consumer-oriented printers, may not be as disruptive to law and society as commonly believed. This is because 3D printing is not just empowering ‘prosumers’, but government and corporate actors that have been investigating the potential of 3D printing for their own purposes, which may in the end just reinforce existing hierarchies and distributions of power.

This seminar will be followed by the book launch of ‘Socio-Legal Aspects of the 3D Printing Revolution’ by Angela Daly (Palgrave, 2016).

Biographies:

Angela Daly recently joined Queensland University of Technology’s Faculty of Law as Vice Chancellor’s Research Fellow and research associate at the Tilburg Institute for Law, Technology and Society. She is a socio-legal scholar of technology with expertise in intellectual property, human rights (privacy and free expression), and competition and regulation. She is the author of ‘Socio-Legal Aspects of the 3D Printing Revolution’ (Palgrave 2016), which was based on her postdoctoral research at the Swinburne Institute for Social Research, and ‘Private Power, Online Information Flows and EU Law’ (Hart 2017), which was based on her doctoral research at the European University Institute. She also has degrees from Oxford University and the Université de Paris 1 Pantheon-Sorbonne and has previously worked for Ofcom and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Dinusha Mendis is an Associate Professor in Law at Bournemouth University and Co-Director of the Centre for Intellectual Property Policy and Management (CIPPM). Dinusha specialises in Intellectual Property Law, in particular copyright law, copyright licensing and digital copyright policy, and has published widely in this area. Her research also includes exploring the challenges to intellectual property law as a result of emerging technologies. In this context, she has conducted extensive funded and independent research on the intellectual property implications of 3D printing and emerging technologies. She has been invited to speak on the topic at the European Parliament; the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM); the UK House of Lords and at various academic organisations, as well as for blue-chip industry clients. During 2015, Dinusha was on research leave and held appointments as a Visiting Scholar at the University of Tasmania Australia and Stanford Law School, University of Stanford California. Dinusha holds qualifications from the Universities of Aberdeen (LLB (Hons)); Edinburgh (LLM, PhD); Nottingham Trent University (BVC), has been Called to the Bar of England and Wales and is a member of the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple Inn, London.

 

Lorna Woods: An overview of the Investigatory Powers Bill report by the Joint Committee on Human Rights

In this post, Professor Lorna Woods, University of Essex and Senior Associate Research Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, considers a report by the Joint Committee on Human Rights on the Investigatory Powers Bill.

The Joint Committee has reported on the IPB. In doing so, it has made clear that this is an expedited report to aid the bill’s hasty progress through Parliament. The Joint Committee does not suggest that its review covers all the issues, nor that it might not come back to issues. The Joint Committee discussed issues arising under seven headings: bulk powers; thematic warrants; modifications; MPs and the Wilson Doctrine; legal professional privilege (LPP); journalists’ sources; and oversightContinue reading