Tag Archives: copyright

Solar sintering, Super 8

Interesting: take the two things deserts have an abundance of – bright sunlight and sand – and use it to make stuff. Solar powered 3D-printing, basically. [via m1k3y]

Now, this is an art/design project, so more of a spur-for-thought than a realistic business proposition – I wouldn’t wanna have to maintain all the bearings and drives on that machine in a sandy environment, for a start – but the underlying point is sound: materials and energy are abundant. We just need to think of new ways to source and use them.

Speaking of 3D printing, though, there’s definitely a whole new flotilla of work coming down the pike for hungry IP lawyers. Via BoingBoing, we find Paramount Pictures sending a C&D notice to some guy who knocked up a rendering file for a gimcrack from the movie Super 8; apparently some other outfit will shortly be selling “official” versions of the box, but I’d be willing to bet the idea never occurred to Paramount until they’d seen this dude had taken the time to do it himself. But just how similar would the reproduction have to be to be considered a breach of copyright, anyway? I rather suspect that line will get drawn by whoever can afford to take it to court for longer than the other.

This isn’t the time for another debate on the validity of IP law – I think most of you know my stance on that already – but it’s always a good time to point out that this stuff is going to get harder to police and/or enforce at a geometric rate, assuming fabbing and rendering technologies continue to cheapen and mature as they are at present. We’re slowly approaching the Napster moment for physical objects, and I remain to be convinced that anyone in line to be steamrollered by the rise of ubiquitous reproduction of 3D objects has any plan in place beyond “sue ’em until they go away”… which is their choice to make, of course, but it’s not a strategy that seems to have worked very well so far.

Nanolaw with Daughter: a parable of a litigatory future

Via the indispensable TechDirt, here’s a short fictional excursion into the near future by Paul “Ftrain” Ford. If you’ve ever wondered whereabouts the rising tide of petty litigations – copyright breach buckshot, nebulous class-action suits, mass-target John Doe patent infringements, libel tourism, the list goes on – might beach us, Ford paints an all-too-believable picture of today’s tomorrow.

On a Sunday morning before her soccer practice, not long after my daughter’s tenth birthday, she and I sat down on the couch with our tablets and I taught her to respond to lawsuits on her own. I told her to read the first message.

“It says it’s in French,” she said. “Do I translate?”

“Does it have a purple flag on it?”

“No,” she said.

“You don’t actually have to worry about it unless it has a purple flag.”

She hesitated. “Can I read it?” she asked.

“If you want to read it go ahead.”

She switched the screen from French to English and read out the results: “’Notice from the Democratic Republic of Congo related to the actions of King Leopold II.’”

This was what I’d been avoiding. So much evil in the world and why did she need to know about all of it, at once? But for months she’d asked—begged—to answer her own suits. I’d told her to wait, to stop trying to grow up so fast, you’ll have your whole lifetime to get sued. Until finally she said: “When I’m ten? I can do it when I’m ten?” And I’d said, “sure, after you’re ten.” Somehow that had seemed far off. I had willed it to be far off.

“Honey,” I explained, “you’ll get a lot of those kinds. What happened is, a long time ago, the country Belgium took over this country Congo and killed a lot of people and made everyone slaves. The people who are descendants of those slaves, their government gave them the right to ask other people for damages.”

“I didn’t do anything. I thought you had to do something.”

Where do you start? Litigation-flow tariff policy? Post-colonial genocide reparations microsuits? Is there a book somewhere, Telling Your Daughter About Nanolaw?

“You know,” I asked, “how you have to be careful about giving away information?”

She did. We talk about that almost every day.

Go read it all; won’t take you ten minutes.

Sauron strikes down the enemy

Like Sauron’s eye, unblinking amidst the roiling smoke above the fulminating* cone of Mount Doom, the Tolkien estate never sleeps. Why, only yesterday we heard about them cockblocking a book in which ol’ J R R appears as a character! But lest you think they only go after infringements that offer some realistic chance of damaging or exploiting Tolkien’s legacy, Futurismic fiction alumnus Adam Rakunas has also fallen foul of them… for making a badge.

Back in the late 2009, I got into a Twitter conversation with Madeline Ashby about geek culture, fandom, and a bunch of stuff like that. Madeline wrote, “While you were reading Tolkien, I was watching Evangelion.” I thought this was an excellent encapsulation of the divide in SF/F/Whatever fandom, and thus took to Zazzle to make little buttons with her quote. I bought a bunch, handed them out at a few conventions, then I had a kid and promptly forgot all about it.

Until today, when Zazzle emailed me to say they were pulling the buttons for intellectual property right infringement.

And guess who complained about their rights being infringed?

Good to see there’s no loss of proportion over at Tolkien Towers, eh? Or, you know, not.

[ image copyright Adam Rakunas; no orcs were exploited in the making of this blog post ]

[ * I’m pretty sure that’s not an appropriate verb for a mountain to be conjugating, but it just looks right, you know? ]

Strange things are afoot in Middle-Earth

I imagine you’ve already heard about The Last Ringbearer, a retelling of Lord of the Rings from the Mordor side of the fence. I rather wish I had the spare time to read it, as the underlying concept is brilliant: it really speaks to our Zeitgeist of revisionism and polarised politics, and also addresses a lot of the major criticisms of Tolkien’s epic.

It also shines a light on intellectual property law. The fact that it’s available in English translation for free (meaning that writer Kirill Yeskov makes no money from it, but gains a whole load of profile and notoriety off the back of a book that has already done very well in Europe) means that, for now, the Tolkien estate isn’t gunning for a take-down. But would a take-down be justified? You could certainly argue that it’s a derivative work, but then so is the well-known (and frankly tedious) parody Bored Of The Rings; if the latter is protected by fair use, why shouldn’t the former be protected under the same terms? Is derision the only protected form of commentary on cultural artefacts? (If so, that might explain the general tone of, y’know, the entire internet… 😉 )

The lack of warning salvos from the Tolkien estate suggests that they don’t think The Last Ringbearer is a battle worth fighting, because they’re happily taking aim at other works related to Tolkien and his output. Texas author Stephen Hilliard is looking to publish a novel that features Tolkien as a character, and is pitching it as a work that combines historical fiction and literary criticism; the Tolkien estate has issued a cease-and-desist on the grounds that it has “a property right to commercially exploit the name and likeness of J.R.R. Tolkien”. [via SlashDot] I’d have thought they’d just angle for a cut of the profits, but apparently they just want Mirkwood squashed completely. I can’t decide whether that’s less disappointing or more so… or what this means for my long-considered series of short stories about a simulated reincarnation of Hunter S Thompson solving crimes in a posthuman future*. I’m certain, however, that the Streisand Effect may end up biting the Tolkien estate on the backside.

All of which reminds me of my amusement yesterday when I saw “Harlan Ellison®” in a press release. If you’ve got enough reputation and clout (plus the money and/or patience to wrangle lawyers), you can protect your name and work to the utmost; whether or not it’ll make the majority of the world think you’re being a pompous dick is another matter entirely.

[ * See that? That’s my prior art claim, right there; if anyone gets to do it, it’s me. ME! ]


Old Duchamp would be proud, I like to think… though given the responses of other postmodern artists to similar events, I’m probably being overoptimistic on that point. Nonetheless, the future shows no sign of waiting for us to reach an accommodation with it, and you can now get yourself a fabbed facsimile of Marcel’s iconic “readymade” urinal museum piece [via BoingBoing].

Fabbed Duchamp urinal clone

As mentioned before, copyright on physical objects is a lost cause, though I doubt that’s going to stop a phalanx of windmill-tilting IP knights charging into battle as the terrain churns like liquid beneath the hooves of their horses, and the lawyers slip in to their vulture costumes off-stage.

And hey, 3D printers are getting pretty close to the point where they can print copies of themselves, too… so at least the futile carnage should be short lived.