Design-Pirates set Sails to Conquer the Desktop Manufacturing Ocean

Napster, Gnutella and Pirate Bay – brought product piracy to a level never reached before in history.

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What’s the next step? What will be the future of sharing? F A B B I N G!!!

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For me it seems that Corsair ships flagged with the Jolly Roger are spotted again at the horizon. This time we are not talking about famous pirate ships like the “Queen Anne’s Revenge” (Blackbeard’s ship). We are talking about modern pirate’s pretty manoeuvrable brigantines with more technocratic and less mystic-laden idioms like RepRap, Makerbot and fab@home etc. We are talking about desktop manufacturing bringing us step by step closer to a machine we only know from Star Trek – The Replicator. A machine that can produce almost everything (from spoons to penties) with the push of a button.

These days I have the impression that the Digital Manufacturing Revolution stays in the spotlight again. A light that’s also unveiling the dark side of 3d-printing, fabbing or whatever you call the shift from manufacturing goods in factories to create objects directly on your desktop:
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DESIGN-PIRACY!

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Fast Company sees a new economy rising without forgetting about design-piracy as a possible threat for professional design as soon as every real object becomes a print-out. Back in 2001, when Napster was on its climax, Marshall Burns & James Howison called the phenomena “Napster Fabbing“. Pirate Bay co-founder Peter Sunde posted a tweet today announcing that the future of sharing is here (referring to the RepRap project).

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What is this design-piracy all about?

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Imagine you can download any virtual object as a file that can be read by digital manufacturing machines such as laser cutters or 3d printers and created by the push of a button. Once again – you hit the button of your keyboard and a complex object, perhaps a Rolex (yes yes, I know, that’s quite far in the future, we are just at the stage of fabbing spoons and bowls…) is printed out by your desktop mashine? Awesome?!?

This part of the story works out pretty well: You can create your own products on your desktop, shipping costs go down to a minimum, local business can be strengthened…  But what if I start printing out copyright material (like the Rolex in the example). What if I download tons of illegal production files and print them out? Pretty scary for many of you huh?

Compare this imaginable (but not far away) scenario with what has happened in the music industry and you get an idea of the impact fabbing & co will have on whole businesses on a worldwide scale!

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Will this scenario happen? DEFINATELY
Can we stop it? DEFINATELY NOT! (And that’s fine even if it can be painful as well, but the time is ready for the next step)

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WILL YOU BE ON BOARD?

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pic by Wikipedia

  • http://blog.rebang.com/ csven

    Of further interest: “The Looming Dark Horizon: When the IP Mess Hits Industrial Design & Co.” – http://blog.rebang.com/?p=1400

    My blog has quite a few entries on this topic; some obviously related and some not so obvious. Basically any time I write about IP, it's with tangible product in mind.

  • http://www.fluid-forms.com Andreas Jaritz

    Thanks for the links and the comments on the Fast Company article, Sven!