imagesWhile 3D printing has been transforming and ‘disrupting’ so many traditional methods for designing, prototyping, and manufacturing, it may also prove itself to be disruptive in an area many designers and makers don’t consider–or want to consider–while they are engaged in the creative process: the legal arena. Talk about harshing your creative mellow.

The legal end of things is no fun to have to stop and think about when you are involved in intellectual and artistic endeavors, but the spotlight began to glare on 3D printing almost immediately once the issue of 3D printed guns erupted, opening a great deal of controversy regarding regulation.

Pandora’s Box, beautifully rendered in 3D print, has been sprung open, left vulnerable to the legal system and government. Guns aren’t the half of it, either, as copyrighting and intellectual property issues have been brought up too many times now to think that the conversation is going away. That box can’t be closed now.

As the industry of 3D printing infiltrates its way into much more public and accessible avenues like libraries, suddenly rules are being posted and questions are being asked. Despite a fairly easygoing, open-source community based on sharing and improving, there’s growing patriarchal worry also now that rebellious, copycatting library patrons might go wild infringing on copyright laws and 3D printing outlandish models. Some trains of thought definitely seem to be along the lines that the artists might start causing trouble, so perhaps it’s better to rein them in before they go any further.

CaliforniaAssemblySealWith the enormity of the transformation 3D printing is presenting, along with the open-source and sharing community, there has been some level of concern that policymakers will get involved and squelch its potential before even a fraction of it has been realized. With that in mind, most makers will cringe slightly to hear about a bill in the California Assembly called AB-37. Not all that surprising with so many libraries beginning to evolve into offering 3D printing, this bill calls for signs to be posted warning against misuse should 3D printing crimes ensue. Signs would also issue warnings of consequences for illegal behavior.

“Provide citations to the applicable state and federal laws that may impose civil liability or criminal penalties for misuse of a 3D printer, including laws regarding copyright infringement and trademark and patent protection,” states Section 1(A) of the AB-37 bill, proposed by Assembly member Nora Campos, representing San Jose.

The bill also states the Department of Justice, in order to keep up with sweeping changes and innovation in the technology itself, would be required to “annually review and revise the notice to reflect updates to the applicable laws.”

Even more concerning, and confusing, is that according to watchdog Parker Higgins, this bill was originally meant to concern drones, and was “one hundred percent amended” to go in the direction of imposing authority and ominous warnings over 3D printing library patrons instead.

20120915-Public-Library-3D-PrintingThere are obviously two sides of the coin here, as the intellectual and creative community would like to keep the focus on the two aforementioned adjectives and watch innovation pour forth. Others are worried about their ‘stuff’ being stolen, the government wants us to enjoy 3D printing but not too much, and libraries are put in the position of babysitting every precocious 3D printing hipster who comes in off the street to put their creative concept into physical form.

What are your thoughts on 3D printing being regulated? Do you think 3D printing in libraries will cause issues? Tell us your thoughts in the California Assembly Bill AB-37 forum thread over at 3DPB.com.

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California State Assembly

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