Legal Aspects of 3-D Printing

    27 April, 2014


    From VOA Learning English, this is the Technology Report.

    There are increasing calls for lawmakers to reconsider copyright laws that protect the owners of 3-D printing designs. But there is also concern that extensive laws could suppress new ideas. 3-D printers have spread from scientific labs to industrial workshops to private homes. And prices of 3-D printers continue to drop.

    Designers demonstrate a large number of different machines at 3-D print shows. There are models that can produce complex copies of human organs. There are less costly 3-D printers that make toys for children or parts for home electrical devices.

    One German automaker recently demonstrated an example of a car structure printed in one piece. And a Chinese manufacturer advertised a house created in a 3-D printer.

    Legal Aspects of 3-D Printing
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    With the help of computer, almost anyone can print exact copies of many kinds of objects. But they also violate the law in doing so.

    Julie Samuels is a lawyer with the civil liberties group, Electronic Frontier Foundation. She says people should be careful about what they create when using 3-D printers.

    "If a certain design that you want to print is covered by copyright, then if you print that you are infringing, arguably, someone's copyright," said Julie Samuels.

    But 3-D companies are concerned about passing more restrictive copyright protection laws. They think these laws could place bans on the rights of citizens. They also believe restrictive copyright laws could suppress technological invention.

    Cydni Tetro is the founder of the website She says she expects to see special permission documents for 3-D printing very soon.

    "All of those companies are in very active engagements right now about how they'll deploy 3-D printed products over the next year, and we're going to see that," said Tetro.

    Diego Porqueras designs 3-D printers. He says owners of 3-D printers and copyright owners should reach an agreement.

    "If companies really take advantage of that and just charge nominal fees to download your favorite character off 'Star Wars' and 3-D print it, I think that's going to prevent a lot more piracy," said Porqueras.

    The lack of legislation related to 3-D printing will not stop the technology from spreading, but experts say they hope new laws will not punish people for printing a copy of something for their personal use.

    And that's the VOA Learning English Technology Report. For more technology stories, visit our website, I'm Jonathan Evans.