Roll Over, Movie Bootleggers: It’s All About 3D Prop Printing Now

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Never mind digital bootlegging, the new wave of counterfeiting is all about 3D printing and the creation of replica props from movies and television. Don’t believe me? Then you’re obviously not lawyers for Paramount Pictures, and you’ve clearly never heard of Todd Blatt.

Blatt was served with a Cease & Desist letter by Paramount lawyers for creating a digital model of one of the strange cube objects in JJ Abrams’ summer hit Super 8, and uploading the file to Shapeways, a 3D printing company, so that they could produce physical copies for him.

As he wrote on his blog:

“I designed the 3D cad file, uploaded it to [3D printing company] Shapeways, ordered one, and promptly (18 hours later) got a Cease and Desist email letter from Paramount’s lawyers telling me to take down the file.”

According to Blatt, the C&D email said that the studio had “learned that you are selling, distributing, and/or reproducing unauthorized Super 8 replicas on the websites located at http://www.shapeways.com and http://www.therpf.com,” and “demand[ed] that you and all those who have acted in concert with you immediately cease all unauthorized sales, transmission, distribution, display, and/or other utilization of Super 8.”

(MORE: Will ‘PROTECT IP’ Act Stop Piracy or Doom Online Innovation?)

As he told Ars Technica, this was something he was only too happy to do, saying, “I’m just a guy, y’know? I don’t want to go to court and get sued and all that…”

Blatt is nowhere near the first person to use digital modeling and 3D printing as a way to recreate props from favorite media—therpf.com, the site named in Paramount’s C&D letter, describes itself as the place “to find the most talented artists as well as industry insiders and the most in-depth discussions about sculpting, modeling, sewing, painting, molding, and displaying replica props, replica costumes, and scale models from movies, television shows and other media!”

But what may have motivated Paramount’s quick action in this case is the fact that the studio has already sold the license to replicate Super 8‘s cubes to Quantum Mechanix, a manufacturer specializing in movie replicas. Unlicensed, Blatt could theoretically claim his model counts as fan art – But is what fan art illegal? If so, this summer’s Comic-Con may be a feeding ground for potential copyright infringement attorneys.

UPDATE: Paramount sent over a statement which reads, in part:

“Paramount sent the C&D after seeing his advertisement/post offering to sell the cubes for ‘$50 or $55 depending if you wanted it polished smooth or not.’ It’s not quite the way you described it in the last graf.”

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