Tag Archives: 3D printing

Information Law and Policy Centre’s annual workshop highlights new challenges in balancing competing human rights

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Our annual workshop and lecture – held earlier this month – brought together a wide range of legal academics, lawyers, policy-makers and interested parties to discuss the future of human rights and digital information control.

A number of key themes emerged in our panel sessions including the tensions present in balancing Article 8 and Article 10 rights; the new algorithmic and informational power of commercial actors; the challenges for law enforcement; the liability of online intermediaries; and future technological developments.

The following write up of the event offers a very brief summary report of each panel and of Rosemary Jay’s evening lecture.

Morning Session

Panel A: Social media, online privacy and shaming

Helen James and Emma Nottingham (University of Winchester) began the panel by presenting their research (with Marion Oswald) into the legal and ethical issues raised by the depiction of young children in broadcast TV programmes such as The Secret Life of 4, 5 and 6 Year Olds. They were also concerned with the live-tweeting which accompanied these programmes, noting that very abusive tweets could be directed towards children taking part in the programmes.

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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.

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.