Online 3D printing services provider and 3D model marketplace Shapeways has joined several other internet-based companies in helping the United States Copyright Office understand how copyright claims work on the internet. The comments submitted by Shapeways were joined by similar comments given by Etsy, Foursquare, Kickstarter and MakerBot, who all regularly deal with the issue of copyrighted and trademarked content being sold or hosted on their websites. The comments were submitted to help the Copyright Office understand where the current laws do and do not work in the modern digital world.
The Copyright Office had requested internet-based content companies submit comments to help with a study that they are conducting into how the government agency is dealing with existing laws and their impact on businesses that allow users to share their work publically. The study is more specifically focused on Section 512 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) which governs how most websites deal with copyright complaints and violations. The comments were due on April 1, 2016 and will lead to a series of yet-to-be announced public meetings on the complicated issues.
While the DMCA is an important tool in helping copyright owners protect their work and prevent it from being stolen or misused, it is not perfect legislation by any means. It was written back in 1998, when the internet as we know it today was just in its infancy. The study was designed to help the Copyright Office understand how the provision is currently working in real world situations and to expose areas where the laws do not work properly or sufficiently protect copyright holders and online content creators. The hope is that the DMCA can be modernized to prevent abuse and manipulation by companies that hold limited copyrights and trademarks.
The focus of the comments made by Shapeways went far beyond simple copyright claims and takedown notices, however. Shapeways and the other companies decided to focus their comments on how trademarks are impacting copyright management online. This is not the first time that Shapeways and other online 3D printing companies have sent in a set of comments on the issue. Back in October 2015 the White House Intellectual Property Coordinator requested similar comments on the issue.
Shapeways specifically highlighted the way that trademark complaints have impacted the Shapeways transparency report which was just released back in February 2016. Their concern is how Section 512 is structured and the holes and weaknesses in the laws that it represents. Section 512 establishes a careful balance between website users, rights holders, and the online platforms that house user-generated content. It includes a series of checks and balances that were designed to provide everyone with the opportunity to be treated fairly in regards to their rights.
The problem is that the entire system is limited to the world of copyrights, so the balances tend to disappear when rights holders include trademark claims in their takedown requests. Shapeways notes within their transparency report that these types of requests happens fairly often. Shapeways believes that no review of the Section 512 system would be complete without the US Copyright Office understanding how it fails to protect users and content hosts in regards to these types of complaints.
Shapeways also notes that even the copyright portion of the Section 512 system are not perfect and are open to abuse. Shapeways and the other companies hope that their comments encourage the US Copyright Office to reevaluate the scope of safe harbors and bring them more in line with the original spirit of the laws as they were intended when they were drafted. What are your thoughts on these issues? Discuss in the 3D Printing and Copyrighting forum over at 3DPB.com.