To license 3D content you need to own It first

Last week Geomagic COO, Tom Kurke, wrote 2 blog posts called The call for a harmonized “Community” License for 3D Content. In these posts, he makes the case that there is no way to license 3D content properly. And he is right.

The problem is that current IP laws only offer limited protection for 3D content. Obviously these laws were written when 3D content was not available yet. To license content you first need to own it. Copyright only extends towards the physical unaltered file of the 3D content itself or 3D render of the 3D content. This means that when a designer redesigns a faithful copy of the 3D design, the options to claim copyright are extremely limited for the original designer. Current copyright laws offer no protection on aesthetics or function. Especially in relationship to 3D printing, those are especially important aspects of 3D design to protect.

Other IP laws like design patents and trademark — namely trade dress — are beyond the financial options for most hobbyist and semi-professionals.

So, if you cannot claim ownership of a design, you cannot license it to others. All community sharing licenses — like GPL or CC — are geared towards licensing copyrighted content for others to use. They deal with photos, software and text. These are common media broadly protected by copyright.

The first task is a mechanism to establish ownership of a 3D design and give the owners broad protection on the applicability of their ownership. But I cannot oversee what the implications that change will be. I see a major risk that they can become very restrictive since every major corporation in the world will claim ownership of their 3D designs.

So yes I am not surprised there is no harmonized community license. What would be the point?