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The Photographer of the Westminster Omnibus

My thoughts on the much-criticised case in which it was held that one Photoshopped picture of a London bus on Westminster Bridge infringed the copyright in another, well-known photo of the same scene. Is the decision as mad as it at first seems, or as wide-ranging in its effects as some have suggested?
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Readers of my LJ may recall my LLM project on the intellectual property implications of cheap 3D printing, which I turned into a paper for SCRIPTed along with RepRep inventor Adrian Bowyer.

One of my predictions for the sort of item that might be attractive to print at home was as follows:

Craft and Hobby Items. Craft hobbies often require plastic moulds; as with appliance spares, these are often expensive but could be produced with a 3D printer. A 3D printer could equally produce items directly, such as model figures for war-gaming or specialist add-on parts for model-making.

with a footnote to the comment about model figures:

19: 32mm model figures from Games Workshop £2 - £10 ( (accessed 25 March 2010)).

Well, it seems that not only did I make a predictive hit, but I scored a bulls-eye!

The Guardian: Pirate Bay irks Games Workshop by sharing 3D plans for its designs

The community recently had its first run-in with copyright law when tabletop battle games company Games Workshop issued DMCA takedown notices against Thingiverse, a site where "makers" share designs.

Games Workshop spokesman Kyle Workman said: "We are very protective of our intellectual property, and our legal team investigates each issue on a case-by-case basis."

Why did I pick GW? Because having seen their Warhammmer figures, they were the most obvious example to me of something that could be reproduced in a 3D printer (solid, no moving parts, supplied unpainted) and which were expensive enought that it might be attractive to print them if you already had a printer. On that, the Guardian article rather misses the point; if you already have a 3D printer, or access to one, then the effective cost is just that of the raw material, i.e. plastic feedstock.


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Simon Bradshaw

September 2017



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