Friday, June 1, 2012

Games Workshop Takes Legal Action Over 3D Printing

3D printing-- the ability to actually create three-dimensional models of things using a printer that lays down one layer of material at a time-- is about to hit our hobby big. Digital printers are finally coming into the realm of reality for consumers, price-wise, and will probably be relatively common within a decade. They're already available online, and people share their own designs on other sites as well. You'd think that would be a boon for gamers, especially those of us who are into minis.

Well, Games Workshop sees not an opportunity for the hobby, but a threat to their bottom line.

According to this article at Wired, GW sent over a C&D letter to a website that hosts 3D printing files. Not because someone had copied one or two of their figures. Because someone had created entirely new figures "in the style of the game" (in this case, Warhammer).

Now, I certainly would understand and support any company that was trying to protect their intellectual property. But neither copyright nor patent law protects style when it comes to objects. Not even trade dress, but just something that is evocative of something else. Tanks and two-legged mechs are out of bounds? Someone tell Battletech...

12 comments:

Slatz Grubnik said...

I have a fear that GW is going
to win this. They've always
seemed to get away with
intimidating individuals.

Coinjock said...

I am usually behind companies like GW and WotC. I have literally had arguments with folks in support of their constant need to release editions and books. They do need profits obviously. But this might get them in trouble even with me. You shouldn't be able to copyright a style of orc. If that was the case they should have went after Blizzard all those years ago.

Joseph Bloch said...

They're very clearly on the wrong side of history. The technology is coming whether they like it or not, and no amount of C&D's are going to stop it.

If they had a brain, they'd embrace it, put out their own .STL files for about what it cost to buy a box of the premade figures, and wait to see how the market turns out. Adjust the price up or down as seems warranted.

It's not like there are so many 3D printers out there that it's really going to eat into their profit margin, and for the few folks out there who *do* have the technology, they'll make a few pounds off them early on. Corner the market.

That way they're perceived as being not only forward thinking, but responsive to customers' needs, rather than being perceived as Evil.

anarchist said...

Games Workshop, Disney and in the past TSR: all aggressive about potecting 'their' ideas, all based entirely on combinging and adapting other people's ideas.

anarchist said...

Anyway, it seems most likely that in a few years you'll be able to get files for making models from the same peer-to-peer networks where you get music and game rules.

Mel said...

If someone creates a 3-D scan of an existing miniature and posts it to a site, that is theft. I have no patience for folks who illegally copy stuff and then try to justify it as anything other than lazy, selfish, cheap-assery. I also have no patience for "knock offs" that take advantage of a particular brand. If a company has spent years developing a particular product, they should rightfully get the rewards of their efforts. If you think that the company is gouging you, then buy something else. There are many other styles and products out there. If you just have to have Gucci though, for example, then man up and pay for Gucci.

That said, I also have no patience for companies going after "derivative works" produced by fans.

Phil Broeders said...

Agree with most of the comments here. GW have been gouging people for years (£8 for one figure!) so I'm glad there's a way to get them back. It might force them to charge realistic prices for their products.

Kalani Hausman said...

What seems of greatest note is that this is a legal challenge based on "style" and not a duplication of copyrighted material. Copyright and design patents both relate to specific designs - you cannot copyright a "style" and yet the challenge appears to be continuing without challenge. It is my hope that this will rapidly be addressed in the courts to get stylistic challenges rendered inert by verdict.

Mel said...

The guy committed forgery. Do some more reading on what happened. He uploaded a file, and claimed that it *was* a Warhammer 40k Dreadnought. Of course lawyers are going to show up. It's no different than uploading a book and claiming that it is a Stephen King book.

Nick Von Cover said...

This technology will forever change our hobby when it comes down in price to what the average consumer will pay. As soon as somebody releases the first data file for a particular model (such as a Tiger tank), then sales of that model will drop to a fraction of the volume they previously enjoyed. It is inevitable.

What I suspect we will see are files developed that permit a certain number of figures to be printed for the copyrighted works. The public domain stuff some enthusiast will post files for free.

When the 3D scanners come out at a price that the public can swallow, that's when the current companies are going to be in deep, deep trouble. You will see them all defend their intellectual property with the vigor that only GW shows currently.

Nick Von Cover blogs at SpottingRound.com

Khani said...

The more GW will intimidate and push, the quicker they will destroy their client base.

If I can download and print a crowdsourced rule set and download and print a detailed, customized and painted army - and GW would come and harass me - I'd laugh them in to oblivion so hard their ears would de be ringing a funeral hymn.

Face it GW isn't exactly popular already in some circles. These are pretty rude and belligerent people. It won't take much to make customers choose .. more rational alternatives.

Napsterization of GW is only a few years away.

Khani said...

The more GW will intimidate and push, the quicker they will destroy their client base.

If I can download and print a crowdsourced rule set and download and print a detailed, customized and painted army - and GW would come and harass me - I'd laugh them in to oblivion so hard their ears would de be ringing a funeral hymn.

Face it GW isn't exactly popular already in some circles. These are pretty rude and belligerent people. It won't take much to make customers choose .. more rational alternatives.

Napsterization of GW is only a few years away.