Does 3D scanning open up a can of copyright concerns for you and your business? Probably, but you can be smart about it, too. Tom and Tracy Hazzard share some tips and pitfalls to avoid if you are offering 3D scanning services or thinking about 3D scanning an item. They get into copyright and why you have to be careful with the items you will be scanning.
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Copyright 3D Scanning Worries
Our question is about copyright and 3D scanning. Should they worry about it?
There’s no absolute answer to it. There are a few common sense answers that we can help you with. This is a murky area that is still being defined and worked out.
It’s getting a little more exposure and it’s growing because companies like Lowe’s and The UPS Store are offering scanning services. When you offer it from a service standpoint and it’s not only with your cell phone app or your scanner at home doing it, it becomes murky.
As you’ve seen at copy centers for years, they’ve been hyper concerned about copyright. They won’t let you bring a published book that’s copyrighted and let you copy things out of it. That would violate somebody’s copyright. What should people be worried about?
We should mention that the murkiness comes from the fact that some things are copyrighted and patented and some things aren’t.
Some things are not copyrightable nor patentable, so it depends.
When we say things, we mean any objects.
In general, if you’re scanning a useful object, it has some function or there’s some movement to it, some mechanism that generally is not copyrightable but it might be patentable. You can design patent anything that you create if you want to. It’s pretty expensive for a small object and a lot of people don’t do it, plus enforcing that patent is very expensive.
A lot of companies do. This is something you have to watch for. If you were doing a knob for your kitchen cabinets, it’s a great example because those companies spend a lot of money on the designs of those knobs and getting them made. They have to tool for them in some cases or they make them. They spend a lot of time and money on them. They do patent them. A lot of them have design patents that you may not know about. They’re supposed to mark them, but it’s novice small. It’s hard to mark.
That is true. I believe that if you are scanning an object that has no patent marking on it whatsoever, they can’t get you for any damages. Eventually, they could stop you from using it. They can change and start marking their objects. If they have a patent, they’re supposed to have it written or stamped right on the object.
In that case, you have to be aware. Take your object and flip it over. If you see any patent numbers, just be safe and do not scan it. That doesn’t apply for personal use.
If you’re going to be doing it for some commercial purpose and you’ve scanned it to sell it in some way.
If you can’t find a replacement and you need to replace one on your cabinet, it’s probably okay.
Copyright is a little different. If the object is copyrightable, let’s say it’s a small sculpture that is copyrightable and you scan that, copyright infringement is applicable to personal use. It’s not just about if you’re going to scan it and make an object and resell it. If you’re doing it for personal use, you still could be violating someone’s copyright.
The reason why scanning is a violation is you’re not adding any artistic ability to it. You’re not adding anything to it. You’re not making a commentary on it. You’re not adding any creation in the process. It’s like xeroxing.
You’re not making it your own or somehow making a derivative of it.
Even if you start with a scan and then make a derivative, it’s still a violation because you’re taking the original works. You have to take it a lot farther in your derivative.
There is a gray area there and that’s why it’s hard to answer.
I think it is a gray area and you should worry about it. You should think twice before you scan something, especially if you’re the service bureau guy who’s sitting there and you’re the one who has to scan. If you think there’s a complication, you might want to bring it up to your boss, bring it up to the customer and say, “I’m not sure I should be scanning this. There’s a patent number on the bottom. This is a sculpture. What are you going to do with it? Should I be doing that?”
Thinking about it and dealing with it upfront is going to save you a lot of headaches later. At some point, there’s going to be a lawsuit that helps further define all these things that happen because somebody did not take the time to be cautious about this.
This is an ongoing subject we’ll probably have to address again in various areas as things come up.
I’m looking forward to things happening and helping to make it clearer.
If you have a question for us, it can be anything 3D or copyright, it doesn’t matter. Ask us anything. It’s a tab on our website, HazzDesign.com.
We’d love to hear questions from you and help do some future episodes in some more specific subjects that you’re interested in learning.
You can also find us on social media @HazzDesign everywhere and you can ask us via that. Make a comment and do anything like that. Thank you for reading.
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