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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

Jarkko Moilanen

University of Tampere

Angela Daly

Queensland University of Technology - Faculty of Law; Swinburne University of Technology; Tilburg University - Tilburg Institute for Law, Technology, and Society (TILT)

Ramon Lobato

Swinburne University of Technology

Darcy W. E. Allen

RMIT University, Faculty of Business, School of Economics, Finance and Marketing, Students

Date Written: November 28, 2014

Abstract

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.

The paper has three sections. First, we will offer a description of Thingiverse and how it operates in the 3D printing ecosystem, noting the legal issues that have arisen regarding Thingiverse’s Terms of Use and its allocation of intellectual property rights. Different types of Thingiverse licences will be detailed and explained. Second, the empirical metadata we have collected from Thingiverse will be presented, including the methods used to obtain this information. Third, we will present findings from this data on licence choice and the public availability of user designs. Fourth, we will look at the implications of these findings and our conclusions regarding the particular kind of sharing ethic that is present in Thingiverse; we also consider the “closed” aspects of this community and what this means for current debates about “open” innovation.

Keywords: 3D printing, Creative Commons, Thingiverse, intellectual property, copyright, sharing economy

Suggested Citation

Moilanen, Jarkko and Daly, Angela and Lobato, Ramon and Allen, Darcy W. E., Cultures of Sharing in 3D Printing: What Can We Learn from the Licence Choices of Thingiverse Users? (November 28, 2014). (2015) Journal of Peer Production Issue #6 Disruption and the law. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2440027

Jarkko Moilanen

University of Tampere ( email )

Tampere, FIN-33101
Finland

Angela Daly (Contact Author)

Queensland University of Technology - Faculty of Law ( email )

Level 4, C Block Gardens Point
2 George St
Brisbane, QLD 4000
Australia

Swinburne University of Technology ( email )

Cnr Wakefield and William Streets, Hawthorn Victor
3122 Victoria, Victoria 3122
Australia

Tilburg University - Tilburg Institute for Law, Technology, and Society (TILT) ( email )

P.O.Box 90153
Prof. Cobbenhagenlaan 221
Tilburg, 5037
Netherlands

Ramon Lobato

Swinburne University of Technology ( email )

Mail H53
PO Box 218
Melbourne, 3121
Australia

Darcy W. E. Allen

RMIT University, Faculty of Business, School of Economics, Finance and Marketing, Students ( email )

Melbourne, Victoria
Australia

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