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Controversy: A Recap of the copyright issues surrounding Prince’s estate

Jennie Rose Halperin, May 23rd, 2016

800px-Prince_Brussels_1986

Prince performing in Brussels during the Hit N Run Tour in 1986, CC-by-2.0

Today at Copyright On!, Britton Payne discussed the unique copyright situation surrounding Prince’s estate. This potentially long and bitter battle could shape the future of music copyright to come. Prince fought a number of legendary copyright battles, which makes this current fight over the ownership of his works particularly interesting.
As Payne writes, “Prince was a tireless advocate of his rights as an artist, using copyright law to control and protect his artistic footprint, even when it seemed like it would cost him more than it would gain. For different reasons, it appears that more contentious exploration of copyright law will continue to be part of his legacy.”

The tl;dr of Payne’s post:
I Feel for You (I think I want my copyright back): The termination of transfer law
After 35 years, artists can reclaim copyright from the copyright holder, which essentially gives them another “bite at the apple” to control their own work. While this law was created to protect artists in 1978 (coincidentally the year Prince’s first album was released), there has been little guidance on the execution of this law.

Prince reworked his contract with Warner Brothers in 2014 to regain access to his early back catalog, which resets the clock on this law. However, every year more of Prince’s back catalog will be up for termination of transfer law, which means that his estate can gain ownership of an increasing number of works, and by extension, control the money that continues to pour in from his most popular titles.

How come U don’t call (a lawyer) anymore: Prince didn’t leave a will

Prince’s will has yet to be found, which means that several conflicting laws surrounding his unpublished back catalog are coming into effect. Because he also left no living heirs, his estate and copyright is now in the hands of his sister, Tyka Nelson, and his five recognized half siblings. (More than 700 people have claimed to be Prince’s half-siblings, but none are recognized by the courts.)

However, siblings cannot execute termination of transfer unless they are the “administrator” of the estate. The title of “administrator” is currently in the hands of a “court appointed ‘special administrator’” called the Bremer Trust. In six months, a more permanent administrator will be found (possibly Tyka, Prince’s sister.)

My name is Prince, but also Joey Coco, Alexander Nevermind, and Jamie Starr

Prince collaborated with many artists and also wrote music under a series of pseudonyms including Alexander Nevermind, Joey Coco, and Jamie Starr. These collaborations as well as his “works made for hire” are covered by different copyright statutes than his solo composed music. There are several issues complicating these works:

  • Many of his co-authors are deceased
  • Pseudonymous works have a longer copyright statute than works written under Prince’s own name
  • Prince’s “works made for hire” are covered by different copyright law than his other work

In short, Prince wrote thousands of songs, many of them unpublished, jointly published, written for other artists, or written for hire, and hundreds of them are potentially affected by different copyright laws.

The Beautiful One(s): The PRINCE act and post mortem rights of publicity
A new act in Minnesota may protect Prince’s likeness for the next 50 years. This act, called “Personal Rights in Names Can Endure”(PRINCE) will keep Prince’s likeness in the hands of his estate. This precedent will be the first to protect deceased celebrities to limit commercial rights to his likeness, so be sure to hang on to your vintage Purple Rain t-shirt. (It’s worth noting that Prince never endorsed merchandising in his lifetime, so most of the apparel floating around the Web is bootleg.)
Tonight we’re gonna party like it’s 2086

In 2086, most of Prince’s works will enter the public domain. Copyright law has been progressively expanded to protect the rights of artists, so any changes to the law will likely benefit his heirs.

Prince’s music in the public domain seems like a long way off, but imagine the next generation discovering this video, and it all seems pretty worth it.

Read more at Copyright On!

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#happybdaybassel

Jennie Rose Halperin, May 22nd, 2016

Bassel

Bassel Khartabil, CC by 2.0

On May 22nd, more than four years after his detention and six months after his disappearance, Bassel Khartabil (Arabic: باسل خرطبيل‎) will turn 35 years old. Bassel’s imprisonment by the Assad regime is a brutal human rights violation and the continued lack of answers about his fate is a hindrance to the fight for free information in the Middle East and beyond. While Creative Commons has been actively involved in the Free Bassel Campaign since the beginning, Bassel’s rumored death sentence makes today’s call to action particularly pressing.

As Lawrence Lessig wrote in 2012, “We distract ourselves with a million other things, but distraction doesn’t change reality: thousands have died; thousands more are being held; tyranny still lives.”

Bassel Khartabil is a Palestinian-Syrian Free Software and Free Culture activist and project lead for Creative Commons Syria. Bassel’s work on Mozilla Firefox, Wikipedia, Fabricatorz, and other open culture projects with his research company Aiki Labs has been credited by the European Parliament with “opening up the Internet in Syria and vastly extending online access and knowledge to the Syrian people.” Shortly after his detention, Bassel was named one of the top 100 global thinkers by Foreign Policy for “insisting, against all odds, on a peaceful Syrian revolution.”

This weekend, we’re joining with his friends around the world to continue to demand his immediate return to life as a free global citizen.

Take action at the Free Bassel campaign website.

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Don’t let California lock down public access to government works

Timothy Vollmer, May 19th, 2016

If you’re a California resident, act now! Send a message to your state representatives telling them to uphold free, open access to California government works. 

state house bigFront of California State Capitol, by David Fulmer, CC BY 2.0

Unencumbered access to public sector information is central to a well-functioning democratic system. And if our government entities believe that transparency, collaboration, and public participation are civic goals worth supporting, then the public should be able to enjoy free and open access to taxpayer-funded government resources.

In February, California introduced a bill that would permit state and local government agencies “to own, license, and, if it deems it appropriate, formally register intellectual property it creates or otherwise acquires.” The law would control access to public sector information developed in California. The bill, called AB 2880, is currently moving through the state assembly. Its origin rests partly in a trademark dispute between the U.S. federal government and a third-party contractor at Yosemite National Park. AB 2880 was introduced to clarify the intellectual property rights held by the state of California.

Most of the intellectual property developed as a result of public funding in the state of California is in the public domain due to the state’s progressive copyright policy. This means that anyone may share and re-use the work of government agencies without having to ask permission or worry about infringing anyone’s copyright.

In its policy analysis of the proposed law, the state attempts to dismiss criticism by pointing out that AB 2880 wouldn’t interfere with individuals accessing information through a California Public Records Act request. While freedom of information requests are an important mechanism to ensure the public’s right to access government records, it’s not a viable or efficient technique for sharing a vast majority of the information the public should have access to by default. And, according to EFF, asking citizens to rely on records requests for access to publicly sector information is not a solution because California would still be able to regulate downstream uses of those materials:

“by explicitly reserving all of the exclusive rights given to a copyright holder, the state and local governments keeps extraordinary powers to restrain the ability for a citizen to distribute documents they obtain through a CPRA request.”

With changes in law and funding requirements, public sector bodies are switching the default from closed to open. Efforts such as Project Open Data, the agency-wide U.S. Department of Labor open licensing policy, the EU’s Horizon 2020 research program, and national level open licensing frameworks for public sector information in Australia and New Zealand are only a few examples.

In its own summary of the bill, the state specifically acknowledged the concern that “allowing state ownership of intellectual property might restrict the dissemination of information.” California should remove this bill from the legislative docket, or amend it in such a way that guarantees that the public is granted free and open access to government funded works.

If you’re a California resident, act now! Send a message to your state representatives telling them to uphold free, open access to California government works. 

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Open Textbooks 4 Africa

Cable Green, May 9th, 2016

OT4A Logo

Open Textbooks for Africa Logo, by: Kelsey Wiens, CC BY 4.0

This is a guest blog post written by Kelsey Wiens, founder of Open Textbooks for Africa and public lead for Creative Commons South Africa. On March 11-12, 45 experts from around the world and across South Africa met to discuss opportunities for Open Textbooks in Africa. The goal of the event was to support the adoption and adaption of currently available open textbooks, as well as build and design a South African focused open textbook.

 

 

The first Open Textbook Summit in Africa was hosted in Cape Town on March 11-12 by Open Textbooks for Africa (OT4A). This two-day event bought together 45 local University lecturers, open education practitioners, and open textbooks experts from around the world. OT4A is a pilot project designed to support the adoption and adaption of currently available open textbooks as well as build and design our own textbooks to showcase African knowledge to the world.

Day one included a panel discussion and debate on the challenges of open textbooks in the South African context. Day two was a workshop to develop an astronomy open textbook with a global south perspective. Textbooks currently used by the Astronomy department at the University of Cape Town feature the sky from the northern hemisphere (i.e., upside down). The working group for the open Astronomy textbook has met twice since the workshop, established a work plan, and is anticipating a classroom usable draft by the end of 2016 – for use in the first term of 2017.

The physics group, also based out of the University of Cape Town, is adapting an OpenStax (CC BY licensed) open textbook. They have listed the OpenStax Physics open textbook as a “recommended book” in the second semester of 2016; aiming for full adoption in classrooms in 2017. This shift will save over 180,000 South African Rands to 150 first year students in first year (equivalent to US$11,860) at one institution over one academic year.  Additional meetings are planned with University of Witwatersrand, University of Western Cape & TSiBA to promote open textbooks.

For more details and to inquire about how your university can use open textbooks, please contact OT4A at: https://ot4a.org

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EU pushing ahead in support of open science

Timothy Vollmer, May 3rd, 2016

8270436894_f71b87230c_zLaboratory Science—biomedical, by Bill Dickinson, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

April saw lots of activity on the open science front in the European Union. On April 19, the European Commission officially announced its plans to create an “Open Science Cloud”. Accompanying this initiative, the Commission stated it will require that scientific data produced by projects under Horizon 2020 (Europe’s 80 billion science funding program) be made openly available by default. Making open data the default will ensure that the scientific community, companies, and the general public can enjoy broad access (and reuse rights) to data generated by European funded scientific projects. The Commission’s actions in support of open science contrasts with the approach taken by the Member States, who—although none deny the momentum to push for “open by default”—are being much more cautious in developing and publishing open science policies.

Also in April, the Dutch EU Presidency hosted an open science conference in Amsterdam. One outcome of the conference was a collaboratively developed document called the Amsterdam Call for Action on Open Science. The call for action advocates for “full open access for all scientific publications”, and endorses an environment where “data sharing and stewardship is the default approach for all publicly funded research”.

The 12 action items laid out in the document push to increase support for open science in Europe. We offered suggested improvements to a few of the proposed actions. First, in response to the item to facilitate text and data mining of content, we said that text and data mining (TDM) activities should be considered outside the purview of copyright altogether. In other words, text and data mining should be considered as an extension of the right to read (“the right to read is the right to mine”). However, as others have pointed out, the fact that the InfoSoc and Database directives have not been implemented uniformly across all Member States indicates a need to adopt a pan-European exception in order to provide clarity to those wishing to conduct TDM. We noted that any exception for text and data mining should cover mining for any purpose, not just “for academic purposes.” In addition, a TDM exception should explicitly permit commercial activity. Finally, we said that terms of use, contractual obligations, digital rights management, or other mechanisms that attempt to prohibit the lawful right to conduct TDM should be forbidden.

Second, we questioned why the item to improve insight into IPR and issues such as privacy needs to take into consideration activities that “will ensure that private parties will still be able to profit from their investments.” We noted that all of the proposed actions are supposed to serve the identified pan-European goal of full open access to all scientific publications.

Third, we commended the action to adopt open access principles. However, we suggested that any principles developed should tackle a wider set of issues than those identified: “transparency, competition, sustainability, fair pricing, economic viability and pluralism.” We said that open access principles should take into account the long-standing principles described by the Budapest Open Access Initiative, and its 10-year update, which includes recommendations on public policy changes, licensing, infrastructure support, and advocacy. In addition, we said that the stakeholders involved in the development of any principles should include researchers, students, and the public.

Finally, on the item of how to involve researchers and new users in open science, we urged researchers to actively engage with other scientists, citizens, and non-traditional audiences. Part of this change means that academics and policymakers need to stop characterizing these other groups as “users [who] might get lost in their search for information, or draw wrong conclusions.” If we presume a default of open, we need to get comfortable with sharing—which sometimes means giving up some control—so that others can benefit. With openness in policy and practice, the communication of science can benefit not only its intended audience, but promote novel and interesting types of re-use across disciplines and and by unconventional users.

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Join CC in supporting the International Day Against DRM

Timothy Vollmer, May 3rd, 2016

in-chains
Image credit Brendan Mruk/Matt Lee, CC BY-SA

Today is the International Day Against DRM, a global campaign to raise awareness about the harms of restricting access to legally-acquired content using digital restrictions management (DRM). DRM consists of access control technologies or restrictive licensing agreements that attempt to restrict the use, modification, and distribution of copyright-protected works. Defective by Design says, “DRM creates a damaged good; it prevents you from doing what would be possible without it.”

CC has always attempted to minimize the negative effects of DRM. All the Creative Commons licenses forbid users of those works from adding DRM or other technological measures that would restrict others from using the work in the same way.

More and more creators have been removing the digital locks from their works and experimenting with new business models. At the same time, we see copyright law being misused in service of controlling access and use of legally-acquired content. For example, last year the agricultural machinery manufacturer John Deere attempted to use U.S. copyright law to restrict access to the software code on their tractors. Specifically, John Deere said that provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act allows them to limit farmers’ ability to inspect and modify software code to fix or enhance the equipment the farmers already own. This is just one example of how DRM has been used to restrict user rights. Luckily the Library of Congress has again adopted a set of exemptions to the DMCA rule that forbids the circumvention of access controls. This way, users can bypass DRM and take advantage of the rights granted to them under the law. However, the list of categories of exemptions is quite limited, and requires interested parties to submit new evidence every three years in order to be granted a renewal.

Another worrying trend is the inclusion of DRM provisions within international trade agreements. And negotiators are pushing DRM anti-circumvention separate from any connection to the effective enforcement of copyright laws. For example, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) adopts criminal penalties for circumventing digital rights management on works, and treats this type of violation as a separate offense regardless of any copyright infringing activity on the underlying content. It is a threat to users’ abilities to use and manipulate the technologies and products they legally own.

We need to end DRM. Get involved in the International Day Against DRM! You can find an event, write a blog post, create a video, translate graphics, and join the discussion. Digital freedom depends on the right to tinker, the right to access information and knowledge, and the right to re-use our shared cultural commons.

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U.S. should require “open by default” for federal government software code

Timothy Vollmer, April 28th, 2016

photo-1453060113865-968cea1ad53aPhoto by Tirza van Dijk, CC0.

A few weeks ago we submitted comments to the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) draft federal source code policy. The purpose of the policy is to improve access to custom software code developed for the federal government, and would require that:

(1) New custom code whose development is paid for by the Federal Government be made available for re-use across Federal agencies; and

(2) a portion of that new custom code be released to the public as Open Source Software.

We provided feedback on a few different areas of the proposed policy.

First, we suggested that software developed by U.S. government employees should be clearly marked as being in the public domain not only in the United States, but worldwide, and as a matter of both copyright and patent rights. Under U.S. copyright law, works created by employees of the federal government are not subject to copyright protection in the United States. But what about foreign copyrights? Clearly, this custom code produced by government employees—thus in the public domain in the U.S.—could be equally as useful to developers outside of the U.S. There is no indication that the U.S. government has wishes to enforce its copyright abroad, but rather allows and even encourages the worldwide public to reuse its works freely, including software.

We said that software created by federal government employees should be released under the CC0 Public Domain Dedication, which waives any copyright that might apply, accompanied by a standard non-assertion pledge (“nonassert”) that indicates that the U.S. government will not to seek to enforce patent rights it may have against reusers of the software.

Second, we proposed that software funded by the federal government but developed by third party vendors should be released under free/open source software licenses that permit the greatest levels of freedom for reuse with the least number of restrictions. This will ensure that the public is granted rights to freely use, share, and build upon custom software code developed using public funds.

Third, we urged the federal government to consider setting a policy of “open by default” for custom software developed by third parties. Right now, the draft policy requires each covered agency to release at least 20% of its newly-developed custom code each year as open source software.

Finally, we urged the U.S. government to extending its open source licensing policy to the outputs of Federal grants and cooperative agreements. We discussed a precedent that support the adoption of a default open licensing policy for software—even for grants and cooperative agreements. In 2011, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) adopted an open licensing policy for the outputs of its $2 billion Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grants Program. As a condition of the receipt of a grant under this program, grantees are required to license to the public all digital content created with the support of the grant under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 (CC BY) license. In addition to content such as digital education and training resources, DOL requires that all computer software source code developed or created with grant funds must be released under an open license acceptable to either the Free Software Foundation and/or the Open Source Initiative. DOL adopted this open licensing policy “to ensure that the Federal investment of these funds has as broad an impact as possible and to encourage innovation in the development of new learning materials.” As of December 2015, the Department of Labor has adopted a department-wide open licensing policy, which covers all intellectual property developed under a competitive Federal award process.

The public comment period is now closed. The U.S. government will analyze the feedback and revise the policy as necessary. You can view all of the comments submitted here.

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The long arm of copyright: Millions blocked from reading original versions of The Diary of Anne Frank

Timothy Vollmer, April 26th, 2016

anna_frank-infograph2v2 (3)

The original writings of The Diary of Anne Frank should have entered the public domain on January 1, 2016. They should have become freely accessible to everyone who wants to read and experience this important cultural work. Instead, the texts remain clogged in the pipes of EU copyright law. In some countries like Poland, the texts are in the public domain. In others, such as the Netherlands, the original writings are protected under copyright until 2037. As a result, millions of people are unable to access and read the online versions of the original works. (The situation is even worse in the U.S., where those writings will remain under copyright until 2042.)

Centrum Cyfrowe, Kennisland, and COMMUNIA are highlighting the strange legal situation around The Diary of Anne Frank with the campaign #ReadAnneDiary.

Today, the Polish digital education organization Centrum Cyfrowe published the original, Dutch-language version of The Diary of Anne Frank online at annefrank.centrumcyfrowe.pl. This is the first time internet users will able to read the original writings of Anne Frank online. But unless you’re in Poland, you won’t be able to access it. Why? Because as of today, the primary texts are still protected by copyright in most member states of the European Union.

COMMUNIA explains the copyright confusion surrounding the diary:

First, the Anne Frank Foundation announced their plans to list Otto (Anne Frank’s father) as a co-author, which would extend the protection period of the published diary until 2050. Next, due to a transitional rule in Dutch law it became clear that Anne Frank’s original writings would not enter the public domain in 2016 in the Netherlands (and many other EU countries with similar rules). Finally, in early February the Wikimedia Foundation (the organization that hosts Wikipedia and related projects) decided to remove the Dutch-language text of the diary from Wikisource.

It’s a mess. But it doesn’t have to be this way. COMMUNIA underscores the need for a modern, progressive copyright framework in Europe:

Currently, the rules for establishing the duration of the term of protection are so complex that we need the support of legal experts from different European countries just to determine whether an individual work is still protected by copyright or neighboring rights. In particular, the lack of effective harmonisation of the duration of copyright across the EU hampers efforts of organisations and entrepreneurs, who want to offer online products and services. Only an intervention at the European level can be remedy this situation. As we have repeatedly argued, the term of copyright protection should be reduced and fully harmonized and unified throughout the EU. If we want to fully unlock the potential of our rich cultural heritage we need clear rules that allow anyone to determine whether a work is still protected by copyright. This also includes making it clear that digitization of public domain works does not create new rights.

The #ReadAnneDiary campaign corresponds with this year’s World Intellectual Property Day. Copyright and other intellectual property rights can be used to promote creativity, sharing, and innovation. Creative Commons licensing allows authors to publish their creative works on more flexible terms than the default all rights reserved regime. Creators of all types are leveraging open copyright licensing and the public domain to collaborate and share a wealth of content—including digital educational resources, scientific research findings, and rich cultural and artistic works.

At the same time, it’s crucial that the public has the right to access important historical works like original versions of The Diary of Anne Frank. It should be available online—in the public domain—for anyone to access, read, and appreciate.

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Vice President Biden: Taxpayer-funded cancer research shouldn’t sit behind walls

Timothy Vollmer, April 22nd, 2016

On Wednesday in New Orleans, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden spoke at the convening of the American Association for Cancer Research on the need to speed up scientific research, development, and collaboration that can lead to better cancer treatments.

Vice President Biden is leading the National Cancer Moonshot Initiative, which aims to accelerate cancer research and “make more therapies available to more patients, while also improving our ability to prevent cancer and detect it at an early stage.”

VP Joe Biden asks about CC’s Ryan Merkley’s op-ed in Wired from Matt Lee on Vimeo.

In his remarks to the American Association for Cancer Research, Biden discussed a broad global support for the Cancer Moonshot Initiative. He talked about the importance of collaboration among cancer researchers, academic institutions, patient groups, the private sector, and government.

He made a commitment to cancer researchers to help break down barriers that get in the way of their work. One of the barriers is not having broad open access to cancer research and data. The Vice President asked about the types of innovative insights and discoveries that could be made possible with next generation supercomputers and openly accessible, machine readable text and data.

Biden spoke about realigning the incentives around sharing cancer data so that research and development can lead to better treatments, faster. He said, “taxpayers fund $5 billion a year in cancer research every year, but once it’s published, nearly all of that taxpayer-funded research sits behind walls. Tell me how this is moving the process along more rapidly.” Biden quoted Creative Commons CEO Ryan Merkley, who this week published an op-ed in WIRED on the urgent imperative for open access to publicly funded cancer research:

 Imagine if instead we said we will no longer conceal cancer’s secrets in a paywall journal — pay-walled journals with restricted databases, and instead make all that we know open to everyone so that the world can join the global campaign to end cancer in our lifetimes? It’s a pretty good question. There may be reasons why it shouldn’t be answered like I think it should — and I’m going to hear from you, I hope, because I’ve not made these recommendations yet. But it seems to me this matters. This question matters.

In the op-ed, Merkley pushed for a fundamental change in the model for sharing and collaboration around scientific information, including cancer research: “An alternative system, where all publicly-funded research is required to be shared under a permissive license, would allow authors to unlock their content and data for re-use with a global audience, and co-operate in new discoveries and analysis.”

We’re grateful to see Vice President Biden’s continued support in the fight against cancer, and we’re committed to assisting in the efforts to ensure unrestricted access to cancer research for the public good.

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How should we attribute 3D printed objects?

Jane Park, April 19th, 2016

How should we attribute authors of CC-licensed 3D designs once that design has been used to print a 3D physical object?

3DSystems 3D Printed Bass

3DSystems 3D Printed Bass / Maurizio Pesce / CC BY

The challenge of attribution, or “view source,” for 3D printed objects, is widespread in the 3D printing community, an active part of CC’s larger network. It is multi-layered and speaks to existing needs by both creators and users of 3D designs. Creators want to be credited for their designs because it feels good to be recognized; plus, as a creator you want to know if and how your work is being used. Users, who are often other creators, want to be able to view the source design behind a physical object so that they can use the design to reprint the object, modify the design, remix it with other designs, or make significant creative additions to the design.

Michael Weinberg from Shapeways first presented on the challenge of attribution in 3D printing at the CC Global Summit last October and wrote up this post summarizing the issue.

In CC’s view, the challenge is more than just compliance with the attribution condition of CC licenses. Actually, it is debatable whether attribution is legally required on the physical object of a CC-licensed 3D design in the first place. Notwithstanding the legal question of whether attribution is required, CC is interested in the challenge of attribution because it speaks to two of our three new strategic outcomes: discovery and collaboration. Standardizing attribution for 3D print objects and providing the information infrastructure behind it (such as a registry or database) would increase discovery of the CC-licensed designs behind the objects and increase connections and collaborations for users who wish to adapt CC-licensed designs to different contexts either on their own or in direct dialogue with the original creator.

Indicating the license on a design is simple; platforms like Thingiverse and Sketchfab have made it easy to upload and mark your 3D designs with a CC license, complete with machine-readable license metadata embedded within the webpage where you download the design file. But once someone sends that file off to a printer, the license information is gone, including the source of the creation — the author, or any way to contact her. The printed physical object doesn’t carry the license info, and though some platforms have provided workarounds, like Thingiverse’s “print thing tags,” these workarounds only make sense for some objects (eg. figurines) but not others (eg. earrings). So how do you view the source of a copyrighted 3D printed object so that you can give credit, print your own version, or iterate on the original design? How do you comply with the attribution requirement of the CC license, if it is in fact legally required?

Let’s figure out a standard way to attribute and view the source of 3D printed objects

Given the current momentum and interest in the 3D printing movement, we think it is much more likely that a standard will be adopted now — this year — rather than at a later date. We want to make sure that any norms that are set are discoverable (machine-readable), usable (user-friendly), and widely adopted (3D community-approved). We also want to make sure that the information behind each attribution is not lost, but indexed in a registry or database so that a user could potentially scan a 3D printed object and view not only its source and license info, but also its derivatives and any commercial models associated with it.

The hope is that any standard for 3D printing could also be adapted for different fields where there are physical objects linked to their digital attributions, eg. print books, but for now we want to focus on the needs of the 3D printing community.

Where do we begin?

To start, we’ve laid out the basic issues and legal questions we need to consider so that we can start researching them, below.

The TL;DR version: We will research and document the basics of 3D printing, including figuring out what types of content are actually copyrightable. We will learn more about how CC licenses are used in the 3D printing community: what and how are users licensing? how are they currently providing credit and source information? We will also explore the policy implications of encouraging attribution as a social norm even where it is not required because copyright does not apply.

Research questions in detail

Basics about how 3D printing works

  • Breakdown of the most common 3D printing process(es) from idea conception to creation of physical object, including types of digital files involved (e.g. scans and CAD files), simple explanation of technical process that occurs in 3D printer, etc.
  • How often are CC licenses applied in this domain? How often are they complied with?
  • What are common techniques for giving credit and identifying source in 3D printing? Real world rules of thumb for ShareAlike?

Role of copyright in 3D printing

  • Within the 3D printing process, which digital files and physical objects are likely eligible for copyright and why? Which ones are not?
    • What are limitations of copyrightability in each of these and how could they or have they been applied? (e.g., useful article rule, merger doctrine)
    • Outline relevant case law. (U.S. and major international cases)
  • When is copyright in each of those objects potentially implicated in the 3D printing process?
    • Even where copying or adaptation occurs, what exceptions or limitations might apply? (e.g., fair use, severability test)
    • Outline relevant case law. (U.S. and major international cases)

Policy implications to think about following initial research of copyright in 3D printing

  • Even if attribution is not legally required, would promoting a standard of attribution result in expansion of copyright (or publicly perceived expansion of copyright)?
  • If copyright is not applicable, what is, or should be, CC’s role in this space?

Michael Weinberg and Public Knowledge have already provided some great baseline research for these questions. We welcome links to other existing research. There may be academic research we don’t have access to (ironically), so any pointers would be helpful.

We want your input

At the same time that we are scoping and carrying out legal research, we will be helping to organize an initial meeting of 3D experts in law, design, and technology, including platforms that enable hosting and distribution of CC-licensed 3D designs. We’ll share our initial thinking and blueprints for prototypes from this meeting, gather community feedback, and then iterate to develop these prototypes for testing in a few platforms. The goal is not for us to develop something that is technically perfect, but for something that has community buy-in for wide and easy adoption.

We’d like to hear from you regarding any of the above. What are we missing in terms of the legal and policy questions? What are some technical solutions that platforms are already using that we should be considering? Who should be involved that we’re not already talking to? And last, but not least, what are your current practices and ideas as a user? Please contact us directly or on the cc-community list. We’re only just getting started.

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