New websites like Shapeways bring 3D printing to the masses (us). How long before physical objects are as easy to copy as files themselves? PirateMusic talks about copying files. But with 3D printing, an author developping a new miniature could find files to his latests sculpts on a filesharing site. And suddenly anybody can print copies of his sculpt, just as they can play copies of his songs, just as they can print copies of his books.

Tabletop models (figures) piracy is a long-known problem. It’s relatively easy to re-create the mold, by putting the figure in a latex or resin, and then cutting that carefully in half. You lose some detail, but at that level you add details to the sculptures by hand anyways, plus the use of modern materials (resins) instead of old lead/pewter lets you actually get better details. It’s a common practice when you are modding your figures and need a lot of copies of certain part. There are also “pirates” who copy whole sets and sell them at competitive prices. I have several minis made of resin or with resin parts – they were custom-made by amateurs.

I had no idea. :)

I must say, however, that the availability of a 3D print on demand service like Shapeways reminds me of PDFs and Lulu – I’m not sure how they handle the issue of illegal copies. I guess the problem is not too big because having the product printed and shipped costs a lot of money – often buying the original book from online retailers like Amazon is cheaper. Not sure about small 3D objects.