3D printing offers the ability to transform digital files into three-dimensional objects. Whether 3D printer users will be able to freely choose the materials (or “feedstock”) to use with their printer is currently being debated before the U.S. Copyright Office.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) prevents users from “circumvent[ing] a technology measure that effectively controls access” to a copyrighted work. Some 3D printing manufacturers use chips to prevent non-approved materials from being used. A user who disables such a chip could potentially be violating the DMCA.

A proposal is pending to exempt such action from the DMCA prohibition. Groups like non-profit Public Knowledge and the Library Copyright Alliance (“LCA”) have fled comments supporting the exemption. They believe that circumventing chip-based verification doesn’t violate copyright law and that users should not be burdened with the concern of a DMCA claim. The Intellectual Property Owners Association (“IPO”) is opposed to the exemption, claiming that its adoption would be counterproductive to the innovation and future development of 3D printing.

Whether the U.S. Copyright Office will approve or deny the proposed exemption remains to be seen. More certain is the fact that this legal debate is just the first of many to focus on 3D printing.

Review Public Knowledge and the LCA’s comment here and the IPO’s comments here. Contact us at Ossian Law regarding the DMCA’s impact on emerging technology or any other information technology law question.