Feb.6, 2015 | By Kira

The 3D printing community has had its ups and downs when it comes to Intellectual Property (IP) and copyright laws. However this Tuesday, representatives from Katy Perry's Legal team issued a firm cease and desist letter to Shapeways, demanding that they remove a 3D model of the Internet-famous 'Left Shark,' a mascot that appeared during her Superbowl Halftime performance and became an instant meme due to his off-beat dance style. Shapeways, which sells 3D print models and 3D printing services, complied with the demand and simultaneously released a letter to the public stating their disappointment:

It’s a shame because we love our community and always want to be able to support their designs. That’s part of the reason why our work with Hasbro is so fun! It’s allowing fans to create products truly inspired by the things they personally enjoy. We know these things can happen when you have a lot of user-generated content, but hopefully more brands (and celebrities!) will take note and want to work together with fans to create amazing products!

In their letter, Shapeways refers to their partnership with mega-corporation Hasbro, which allows users to create and upload 3D models based on their characters, with some of the sale proceeds going back to the copyright holders. Aside from these types of co-operations, however, many 3D printing services remain in a grey area when it comes to IP and copyright law. There are likely hundreds of 3D models based on celebrities, pop culture icons, and even Internet memes, and unless the law cracks down on them asap, they aren’t likely to go away any time soon.

page one of the cease and desist notice, available in full here

For now, the Left Shark 3D model is available on Thingiverse, which offers free downloads of models and requires users to 3D print their own objects. Fernando Sosa, the designer behind the model, is urging people to download it as soon as possible:

Since some lawyers send a cease and desist to Shapeways.com where i was selling this little bad boy shark and i cannot longer sell this. Apparently sharks, palm trees and beach balls are all now copyrighted.. anyways i'm making this available to everyone.. now you can 3D Print your very own left shark. Just make sure you download this file ASAP since just in case its taken down.

This isn’t the first time sites like Shapeways and Thingiverse have received takedown requests, however this is certainly the most public incident, especially considering the fact that Left Shark is hardly seems like the most unique or proprietary design out there. Still, it will set an important precedent and might just make other 3D print designers think twice before releasing their pop-culture-inspired models to the world. 


Posted in 3D Design


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