So, my last post was nearly a year ago… I’m not proud of that. But we’re officially back in business and there’s a lot to talk about.
I am currently General Counsel and COO of Matter and Form Inc., makers of the world’s most affordable, high quality and easy to use 3D scanner. Last month at CES we announced Cashew, our forthcoming online 3D presentation platform. In the course of developing Cashew, we’re contemplating a lot of really interesting IP issues – secondary liability, notice and notice/notice and takedown methods, and even some ‘disruptive’ IP ideas that I can’t wait to share with you. As a company that respects IP rights, we’re going to make sure that we help everyone play by the rules. But we also think we can make it easier than ever for people to share and exploit their 3D IP.
But for now, I’d like to take a moment to discuss Fernando Sosa’s recent legal run-in with Katy Perry. I wrote about Fernando a while back, when he had a run-in with HBO over 3D printed Game of Thrones-style iron throne phone docks that he was selling on his website.
Last weekend, the unanticipated star of the Super Bowl was the Left Shark that danced poorly/awesomely behind Katy Perry during the halftime show. Fernando, a talented 3D designer, made a 3D model of the shark and put it up for sale on Shapeways (it’s now gone, but he’s rebelled against the DMCA take-down by putting the 3D model up for free on Thingiverse). Much like the Iron Throne incident, Fernando was hit with a cease-and-desist letter telling him to remove the model and threatening legal action.
After the Throne incident, I corresponded with Fernando a little bit. I wanted to use his story as an example in my lectures. In that brief exchange, and through his behaviour at the time (asking HBO if he could license the design and pay them), I geniunely came to believe he’s not maliciously trying to profit off others’ IP. He seems flummoxed by lawyers and IP laws.
But unfortunately, this kind of thing is going to happen more and more as awareness of 3D models increases. And it will invariably happen to people who don’t realize they’re doing anything wrong. For example, the copyright owners of TinTin (Hergé’s estate) have been targeting models on Thingiverse that resemble the rocket from the book Destination Moon. I’m sure many of these people are just TinTin fans who want to share their fandom with others.
And for every DMCA complaint, there are so many examples of possible trouble. I have to wonder how sports apparel maker Bauer feels about a model like this, or how Disney/Lucasfilm feels about this “public domain” Imperial Star Destroyer on Thingiverse. (lawyer disclaimer – please note I am making no comment about whether there is or is not any IP infringement occurring in these two examples.)
I’m not arguing against the enforcement of IP rights – I’m saying that there’s education that needs to happen. But more than that, IP rightsholders need to find creative ways (like Hasbro and Shapeways have with SuperFanArt) to make it possible for people to engage with brands and characters in 3D without risking receiving a threatening lawyer letter. With Cashew, we’re going to try to do our part to make that happen.
More on that later…