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HBO, Let Us Buy Your 3D Printed Stuff

By Michael Weinberg

Today's example of copyright coming into contact with 3D printing is a 3D printed phone dock made to look like Game of Throne's Iron Throne. The facts are fairly straightforward: Designer Fernando Sosa modeled the dock on the Iron Throne featured in HBO's Game of Thrones series. HBO sent him a takedown notice, claiming a copyright on the throne. Sosa took the throne down.

On its face, this appears to be a textbook application of the DMCA takedown process in action. However, it also highlights something of a missed opportunity for HBO.

Let's assume that the chair itself is protected by copyright (while chairs are generally considered functional objects outside of the scope of copyright, the non-functional decorative elements of the Iron Throne pretty much define it for modeling purposes). Because of this, HBO absolutely has the right to request non-licensed reproductions be taken down. Furthermore, HBO absolutely has the right to request that those reproductions be taken down because they have already sold the rights to make an Iron Throne phone dock to someone else.

But here is the missed opportunity: this story is drawing the public's attention to the idea of an Iron Throne phone dock. It is likely that some of the people learning about the dock would like to purchase it. But, as of right now, there is no way for them to do so.

And this was one of the central failures of the other industries' responses to the internet. These industries (music and movies come to mind) initially spent time and money stopping people from making things available online, but spent very little time and money giving people a way to pay for things online.

Now, I'm not saying that HBO is the music industry or that it was necessarily a bad idea to request that this particular design be taken down. For all I know, tomorrow the licensed Iron Throne phone dock will be for sale.

But for now, they have given a number of people who want to pay for an Iron Throne phone dock no way to do so. Long term, that is not a sustainable way for anyone to react to 3D printed disruption.

All of this makes CCIA's Matt Schruers' question:"where can a geek buy a phone throne?" all the more relevant. If the answer is "nowhere," then you are doing it wrong.

This post was originally published on Public Knowledge and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

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