Next Frontier in Piracy: Downloading Physical Objects to Your 3D Printer

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Exciting times, friends. While we’ve been cleaning up the proverbial ticker tape left behind by jubilant celebration over the recently-stalled antipiracy bills, the Pirate Bay – arguably the premier resource for pirating digital content – has already moved on to the next big thing.

The site has announced a new category called “Physibles” that houses digital files that can be downloaded and used in conjunction with 3D printers to print out actual, physical objects:

We believe that the next step in copying will be made from digital form into physical form. It will be physical objects. Or as we decided to call them: Physibles. Data objects that are able (and feasible) to become physical. We believe that things like three dimensional printers, scanners and such are just the first step. We believe that in the nearby future you will print your spare parts for your vehicles. You will download your sneakers within 20 years.

As of right now, the Physibles section of the Pirate Bay has only a few odds and ends – a 3D model of a camera lens, a model 1970 Chevelle hot rod and a whistle, to name a few – but as the prices of 3D printers continue to fall and people one day get used to the idea of, say, purchasing an otherwise tangible product from Amazon and then printing that object out themselves, you can see where a site like the Pirate Bay could really start to ruffle some retail feathers.

(MORE: Check out a video of 3D printing in action)

The site spins the announcement with a more humanitarian outlook, however:

The benefit to society is huge. No more shipping huge amounts of products around the world. No more shipping the broken products back. No more child labour. We’ll be able to print food for hungry people. We’ll be able to share not only a recipe, but the full meal.

Such a future is still several, if not tens, of years off, but the ability to print relatively simple objects (even food) is already here and will continue to get more refined over time. Even questions about intellectual property as it pertains to 3D printing have already been raised.

You may recall last year that Shapeways.com, a site that lets users share 3D printer files with one another, found itself associated with a legal scuffle between one of its users and Paramount Pictures. The user had apparently recreated a prop from Paramount’s movie Super 8 and, according to Paramount, was offering to sell 3D printouts of it.

Now imagine a day when everyone has a 3D printer at home. We’ll surely be able to purchase 3D printer files from people and companies far more adept at creating models of printable objects than we are, and assuming these files will be relatively easy to duplicate due to their digital nature, we’re bound to witness plenty of litigation over what’s legal to copy and what’s not.

As Shapeways points out when commenting on the Pirate Bay news, “Being able to download product files is not new, Shapeways has had downloadable models for years, as has Thingiverse and Google Warehouse, but let’s see how this affects the 3D printing IP debate. “

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

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