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Print It? Careful of That Copyright!

It's getting so we can print whatever we need, from guns to guitars to body parts. But if we print action figures from Disney or Star Wars films (for example), we could run into copyright problems. Will a sheriff soon come knocking on your door and confiscate your kid's toys?

In a few years, if your kid breaks one of his action figures, he'll be able to toss the old one into a 3D printer and get a new one--almost as if it were a Xerox machine.

On the Wired. UK website, Clive Thompson quotes attorney Michael Weinberg as saying, "Printing in 3D is a disruptive technology that raises a lot of intellectual property issues."

Since 3D printing is such a new technology, no lawsuits have been filed yet, but it's inevitable that they will be. BUT, when they are, a judge may rule that you haven't violated copyright laws but patent laws, which are much more lenient and expire in 20 years. The patents on many of the objects you may want to replace, such as Lego bricks, have expired long ago. Also, patent law generally only covers a complete assembled product, so creating replacement parts is probably legal.

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