We are excited to announce a new whitepaper, 3D Scanning: A World Without Copyright*. As the name suggests, the paper examines how 3D scanning intersects with copyright law. We are big fans of 3D scanning here at Shapeways, and so we thought it was important to start a discussion around how copyright might impact all of the scans that are coming into the world.
It may come as a surprise, but in many cases 3D scans will not be protected by copyright. That does not mean that scans are not important, but it does mean that people making and distributing scans should understand what rights they do – and do not – have in those scans.
Why aren’t the scans protected by copyright? One of the key requirements for copyright in the United States is originality. Even if it takes a large amount of skill to create a scan, if making the scan does not involve originality it is simply not eligible for copyright protection.
The vast majority of scans fall squarely in that category. By definition, most 3D scans attempt to create a perfect digital replica of the model being scanned. Injecting “original” content that deviates from the object being scanned into that digital file would undermine the purpose of the scan.
Short version … 3D scan files are generally not protected by copyright. And that’s ok.