For those of you unfamiliar with the USA’s Digital Millennium Copyright Act, it’s a law that gives an expanded set of powers to holders to defend their copyrights. One of these powers is to send a “take down request” to websites when they believe some of its content is infringing. If the website doesn’t remove the content, the holder of the copyright can then take legal action.
In this case, Games Workshop, makers of miniature games such as Warhammer, have demanded the take-down. The especially interesting part of this is the infringing content isn’t an image, movie, or song like most of the copyright fights we’ve seen. Instead, this is a digital representation of a 3D shape of a Warhammer 40K tank.
What’s In a Name?
With the continual expansion of 3D printers, a subculture of 3D design has also grown up online. In this case, the author, 3dYeti, has designed a shape that is reminiscent of an 40K tank. It’s not a copy with a laser scanner, and it’s not a meticulous reproduction. It’s just similar.
It seems like a bit of a stretch to issue a takedown on an electronic representation of a physical shape. It’s not even an especially accurate electronic representation. Should they be able to issue a takedown on a picture of one of their products? How about on detailed instructions on whittling one out of wood?
Unfortunately, since he’s titled his shape ”Warhammer 40k Imperial Guard Leman Russ Tank”, that’s the opening Games Workshop needs. If he’d just called it “Scifi Miniature War Game Tank”, he’d have been fine. How many cheap knock-off toys show up in the stores that are suspiciously similar to name brand ones? In this case, Romeo, there’s a lot in a name.
I think the applications for this in RPGs are only going to grow as 3D printers become cheaper and easier to use. Want a new mini? Print one out! Can’t find one fitting your character? Design it yourself, or modify somebody else’s design to add in the mustache and big sword, and then print it out.
This also means we’re going to see more of these takedown orders, and the subsequent lawsuits. There are already five hits on Thingverse with a search of “DnD”, which mostly seem to be dungeon pieces. I’ve got to say, some of it looks pretty cool. So far it seems to be original designs, and not clones. However, they may regret using names like “Modular DND Map“, which looks awesome by the way.
If you’re a maker/gamer interested in 3D design, more power to you! You’re blazing a trail that many more will follow. Please print off a “Modular Map” for me! Just be careful what you call your creations. Much like nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition, nobody wants a brush with the DMCA.
Have you combined Making and gaming? Do you have an opinion on this takedown request? Did you, in fact, expect the Spanish Inquisition? Let us know in the comments!