Cultures of Sharing in 3D Printing: What Can We Learn from the Licence Choices of Thingiverse Users?
(2015) Journal of Peer Production Issue #6 Disruption and the law
29 Pages Posted: 23 May 2014 Last revised: 16 Jan 2015
Date Written: November 28, 2014
This article contributes to the discussion by analysing how users of the leading online 3D printing design repository Thingiverse manage their intellectual property (IP). 3D printing represents a fruitful case study for exploring the relationship between IP norms and practitioner culture. Although additive manufacturing technology has existed for decades, 3D printing is on the cusp of a breakout into the technological mainstream – hardware prices are falling; designs are circulating widely; consumer-friendly platforms are multiplying; and technological literacy is rising. Analysing metadata from more than 68,000 Thingiverse design files collected from the site, we examine the licensing choices made by users and explore the way this shapes the sharing practices of the site’s users. We also consider how these choices and practices connect with wider attitudes towards sharing and intellectual property in 3D printing communities. A particular focus of the article is how Thingiverse structures its regulatory framework to avoid IP liability, and the extent to which this may have a bearing on users’ conduct.
Keywords: 3D printing, Creative Commons, Thingiverse, intellectual property, copyright, sharing economy
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