What Is DMCA and Why It Is Important for CAD Designers

DMCA for content protection

The rise and popularity of the internet have changed the  way we create and share content. We have come a long way from the good old days of peer-to-peer sharing to the modern cloud-based sharing platforms. You can access any information in just a few clicks, even if you are sitting in a remote corner of the world. What we often ignore is the downside to this free access.

What do you do when someone takes your copyrighted material and uses it as their own? Owing to the vast expanse of the internet, tracking every incident of copyright infringement may not even be feasible. While this is particularly alarming for digital content creators such as YouTubers, bloggers, etc., it can also affect CAD designers. Fortunately, there are laws and legislation to safeguard the intellectual property (IP) rights of CAD designers and their clients.

Before we take a closer look at one such law, let us understand why CAD designers need to be cautious of copyright infringement. 

Computer-aided Design (CAD) and Copyright Infringement

Imagine a hypothetical scenario. You take hours to design the 3D model of a new walking stick for your client. This prototype is used to create tangible products and sell them in the market. A consumer purchases this product and is highly impressed with its utility. Somehow, they manage to get hold of your CAD files and a 3D printer and create a duplicate version of your original product.

Further, they create multiple copies of the product and start selling them online at a cheaper price. They may even use your client’s brand name and logo on the duplicate products. Apart from diluting your client’s branding and authority, it also puts your reputation at risk. The worst part is that you may not be aware of the scam since it could be happening in another country or continent.

You might think that the likelihood of the occurrence of such an incident is negligible. But, the abundance of 3D printers and their declining costs have made it easy for today’s consumers to create their own products. Moreover, cybercriminals can hack your computer and get access to all the CAD files, prototypes, and models developed by you. In the worst-case scenario, they could release these files online, allowing anyone to create duplicate products using your designs.

What if there was a way to monitor and report any such duplication? How do you take action against those cybercriminals who leaked your CAD files? What about the end consumers who create low-quality duplicates of your original product? As a CAD designer, you should be aware of your IP rights to protect your work and reputation.

Let us now understand what is DMCA and how it protects CAD designers.

Decoding DMCA

DMCA stands for Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a copyright law that was passed in the U.S. in 1998. It put into action two treaties formulated by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). The main aim of DMCA is to protect the IP rights of bloggers, YouTubers, designers, musicians, filmmakers, etc. It also addresses the rights and obligations of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) whose servers host content that violates copyright laws.

Simply put, DMCA lets you take action against anyone who uses your legally protected work under their name on the internet. You can send a DMCA notice to the violator and ask them to remove the copyrighted material from their website. The term “copyrighted material” refers to audio clips, tunes, videos, images, text, designs, prototypes, etc.

It is, however, crucial to understand that ISPs and platforms like Google, YouTube, Facebook, etc. are free from the legal repercussions of DMCA. DMCA gives a sort of “safe harbor” to these platforms. They aren’t required to monitor the content that is being regularly uploaded. However, they are obligated to take down a piece of content when a copyright violation is reported against it.

When you detect any copyright violation of your content, you can send a DMCA takedown notice to the website owner or ISP. The ISP removes the infringed content and sends a notice to its publisher. The publisher, in turn, can send a counter-notice to fight the takedown. If you don’t respond to the counter-notice within a given period of time, the ISP is obligated to restore the removed content.

If you want to understand the application of DMCA, just run a quick Google search for “watch Big Bang Theory online”. Scroll to the end of the first page of search results. Here’s what you will see:

Image via Google

What has likely happened is that the show’s producers or studio executives have issued a DMCA notice to Google. Google, in turn, has obliged by delisting the violating website from its search results. The producers may also have sent takedown notices to the website owner and associated ISP.

Now re-imagine the previous example of the walking stick under the purview of DMCA. When you find out that your prototype is being replicated, you can send a takedown notice to the website hosting the prototype. The owner of the website is legally obligated to immediately remove your CAD files.

It is worth mentioning that certain websites like Thingiverse and Shapeways abide by the DMCA guidelines. CAD designers are free to share their licensed work on these platforms. The only catch is that if their work is distributed beyond the scope of these websites, DMCA can’t protect the rights of the owner.

Another major challenge with DMCA is that it requires you to keep a close eye on any possible infringement of your work. This is not feasible always, considering the endless scope of the internet. This is where a DMCA service can be of great help. Think of it as an agency with a team of experts who work round-the-clock to detect copyright violations and issue DMCA takedown notices.

Conclusion

As a CAD designer, you invest a lot of time and effort to create models and prototypes of new products. It can be disheartening to witness your ideas being replicated and used to sell low-quality products in the market. It raises questions on your credibility and reputation. Additionally, it jeopardizes the safety of the consumers who buy the duplicate product.

DMCA is a law that attempts to protect copyright owners against incidents of infringement on the internet. While the law is mostly leveraged by content creators, it is also helpful for CAD designers. You just have to watch out for any online material that violates your IP rights and issue a takedown notice to its owner. You can even enlist the help of a DMCA service for this purpose.

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Using Pattern Brushes in Adobe Illustrator for Decorative Borders

Illustrator image

Users of Adobe Illustrator can create complex patterns made of simple tiles, and also have an incredible amount of brush shapes to work with. Most of these two features are used separately, but combining them together can provide another great creative feature: pattern brushes.

Almost a Hidden Feature

Unlike the patterns, you’ll notice in the Swatches palette, or the brushes in the Brushes palette, Pattern Brushes don’t stand out as an obvious feature in Illustrator. But if you look at the bottom of the Brushes palette’s default brushes, you can see an example of a pattern brush. Or if you open the Brush Libraries, you’ll find several sets of Borders that can be used as pattern brushes.

Patterns Combined to Create Paths

Pattern Brushes are comprised of a set of patterns combined on a path. This set of patterns can include the side tile (for standard strokes), start tile, end tile (which can be the same as a start tile, but flipped, — or a different design), outer corner, and inner corner tiles. The corner tiles can be omitted if a pattern tile is designed for free-formed paths.

When used on a squared border, Illustrator places the outer corner tile in all four corners, with the side tile placed in between, seamlessly joined together. When used as a free-form path, the start and end tiles cap the repeated use of the side tile. The side tile will follow the path, and be stretched around sharper corners.

Create Adjoining Patterns and Use As a Brush

Here’s how to make Pattern Brushes. First, create pattern tiles that will adjoin to each other seamlessly when used. You’ll need end tiles and a side tile (see Example A). Corner tiles would be needed if you want to create a box border or will have hard angles on your path. The examples below use only end and side tiles for a free-form design.

Important: make sure your new patterns tiles are named. Double-click on a pattern tile you’ve added to the swatch palette and give it a name in the dialog box.

Next, create a pattern brush by choosing “New Brush” from the pop-out menu in the Brushes palette. Choose “New Pattern Brush” from the next dialog box. The Pattern Brush Options dialog box appears (see Example B). All the pattern tiles from the Swatch palette are listed, with five indicators of the pattern placements needed. For our example, the two end tiles are placed as well as a side tile, but the corner tiles are left blank. Save the brush.

Now choose the new pattern brush from the Brushes Palette. Check a fill/stroke indicator to make sure you have “stroke” checked. Now pick a drawing tool and draw your object. The pattern brush follows your object’s shape. The pattern tiles are automatically added and adjust to the contours. You may need to edit the pattern brush in the Brushes palette to compensate for gaps and stretches, depending on the type of design you’ve created.

Creative Detailed Results without a Ton of Work

The use of Pattern Brushes allows for some very interesting and complex looking artwork without a ton of effort needed (see the finished example above or below). All the “hard” work is done in just a few pattern tiles, and Illustrator takes over to do the detail work on a larger scale.


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How to Design a Photoshop Club: Schools Benefit From an Online Learning Portal

Design a Photoshop club

Photoshop Clubs usually share a basic structure. There is need for a gallery, discussion boards and forums peopled with characters. They may wish to remain anonymous by displaying an avatar as a signature. These portals are easy to create and not too time consuming to manage if they are well planned from the outset. The benefits of this kind of learning can be quite profound.

Safety Procedures for Online Sharing of Content

Clubs can be locked to protect the privacy of the students. Digital space may be limited so that students are encouraged to be selective when uploading their work. This needs to be selective as it may cause students to develop a sense of discernment when learning about design.

A moderator can be appointed who will take material offline if it is inappropriate and does not comply with the rules of the club.

Feasibility Study to Ascertain Workability of Project

Although the idea is a good one, setting up the club may be time consuming. There is a need for some basic equipment if the club is to function.

Any school that has unlimited access to Photoshop on all computers is in an ideal position to create such a club free of charge.

There would need to be:

  • support from administration
  • at least one teacher who has the passion to manage the learning environment
  • keen students, some of whom have at least basic skills with the programme so that they can be role models and lead the way
  • access to a scanner or digital camera (although students could download images from online if they needed to, as by the time they have been altered they will no longer break copyright)
  • a free social network tool such as Ning (social network tool) or WetPaint (wiki tool)

Characteristics and Benefits of Photoshop Clubs

A Photoshop Club can be structured so that it is a gathering place on line. So that the work keeps flowing and that students are learning and upgrading techniques, regular challenges are given out to participants. This provides the space and focus to motivate students.

Learning Photoshop via an online streaming vignette works well for many students. The amount of time required for students to complete the exercises demonstrated on WatchandLearnphotoshop.com is not too great. This is, of course, unless the students are highly motivated to extend their knowledge and mastery. If this happens and the students become engaged, they can extend the challenges, test the limits and hone their skills to a very highly polished degree.

Creating an Online Gallery of Images

As the students improve their ability to manipulate images and they develop their skills and sense of design, a fantastic gallery of images will evolve.

Not only can the students monitor their own improvement, but the school will benefit from a growing library of images to act as an image bank, relevant to the school culture. There will be a fondness for the material because the images would be owned by the student and teaching community.

Others could commission images and set challenges that will directly meet the needs of the school population. A promotions committee designed to publicise the school would be of particular benefit.

As the examples are loaded into the gallery, students will be able to see a wide range of styles, thought processes and artistic inspirations that can be stimulated by one simple question.

Once the community begins to understand the benefits of the venture, the learning culture of the school is expected to flourish. The bank of useful, local images is expected to attract an audience to further enhance feedback and participation.

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Adobe Lightroom for the Hobbyist

Lightroom for hobbyists

Adobe Lightroom has a lot to offer to the photography amateur. Here, some reasons why Lightroom might be right for you.

If you are an amateur photographer, you take a lot of photos. You might shoot in RAW rather than JPEG, and you are willing to go through the extra work that RAW requires because now and again, or maybe more often than not, RAW gives you the latitude to adjust your photos and bring them from “so-so” to “wow.”

Whether you shoot in RAW or JPEG or both, the software you use to manage, organize and adjust your photos is very important. Well-designed, capable software can make or break your desire to sit down and go through your latest round of photos, deciding which to keep, which to delete and which to crop and “fix” to your liking.

Whether you have no money to spend on photo software or you have a substantial budget, there are many options to choose from. I won’t attempt to outline the many options here, but I do want to bring to your attention a piece of software called Adobe Lightroom.

At almost $300, the price of Lightroom can be prohibitive, but if you are able to get the student/teacher discount, the cost drops to about $80. At this price, and even at full price, Lightroom might be just what you need to take your photography to the next level. Here’s why.

Dealing with Incoming Photos

Lightroom is designed to help you effectively deal with large numbers of incoming photos. Once you have imported a group of photos, Lightroom has tools that enable you to easily keep the good ones and let go of the not-so-good ones. The simplest way to do this is to scroll through your photos and tap “P” to mark a photo as a “Pick” and “X” to mark a photo as rejected. Next, you do a simple filter to show all of your rejected photos, then “select all” and delete.

There are also ways to mark photos with stars (1 through 5 stars) and color codes.

For a casual photographer who takes 20 photos per month, this might not be so important, but if you take 50 or 100 or more photos per day, as many hobbyists do, the ability to quickly and easily sort the wheat from the chaff becomes increasingly important to your productivity and sanity.

Organizing the Photos You Have

Lightroom allows you to tag photos, either as they are “coming in” or one by one, and also to put photos in what are called collections. So you might tag photos with certain people in them (“Grandpa,” “Billy”) or put photos in collections such as “Billy – Best Shots.” Note that collections do not remove photos from the actual folders where they live, but they give you an easy way to view certain groups of photos that you have created.

Fixing Your Photos

Lightroom is designed for professionals, so the options available to fix your photos are top-notch. Removing “image noise,” the speckled look that photos get when you use a high ISO, is as easy as adjusting a slider. There are the usual tools for cropping and adjusting things like saturation and white balance, and also more advanced tools that remove blemishes or lens spots.

Keep in mind that if you want to do things like take a face from one photo and put it into another photo, you’ll need Adobe Photoshop or a similar program, but for many tasks, Lightroom is very capable.

There are too many options and tools to mention here, but suffice it to say that if Lightroom doesn’t have it, you — as a hobbyist photographer – probably don’t need it.

Presets, Presets, Presets

A Lightroom preset refers to a specific effect that you apply to a photo (or multiple photos at once) simply by clicking a button. Lightroom comes with 20+ presets, including several black-and-white effects, “aged photo” effects, and split tone effects.

You can also create your own presets, which is very handy for times when you have a group of photos that were all shot under the same conditions. Once you adjust white balance, noise correction, exposure correction and so on for one photo, you can apply those settings to multiple photos at once.

In addition, there are many sources of free Lightroom presets to help you achieve almost any look you can think of.

After I started using Lightroom and Lightroom presets, both those that come with Lightroom and some that I found for free on the Web, the number of compliments I got on my photos increased dramatically. It is possible that my improving photography skills had something to do with this, but I am also confident that presets had something to do with this.

Quite simply, careful use of presets can easily give your photos a professional look. For this reason alone, I think that Lightroom should be considered by any amateur photographer who wants to take his or her work to the next level.

Ease of Dealing with RAW Images

Many hobbyist photographers choose to shoot in RAW format rather than JPEG, but the downside can be the additional time and hassle required to deal with the RAW images. I personally used a combination of Picasa and UFRaw for GIMP for quite some time before I decided there must be a better way. It turns out that Lightroom is, in fact, a “better way,” because you do all of your edits directly on the RAW file before, one way or another, exporting as JPEG.

I won’t go into all of the details here, but also note that Lightroom uses what’s known as “nondestructive editing” for either RAW files or JPEG files. This means that you don’t have to constantly remind yourself to “Save As, Save As, Save As,” in order to preserve your original image.

Final Thoughts

If you don’t currently have $300 (or $80, in the case of the student/teacher edition) to spend on Adobe Lightroom, you might choose to save up for it. Or, you might look into one of the many other photo software options that are available.

Either way, it helps to be aware of how the tools you use affect your commitment to your photography hobby. If one particular tool seems to be cramping your style, do some research and talk with other shutterbugs to find out what else is out there.

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Photoshop through the Ages: How Photoshop Began and Where it Stands in the Market Today

Photoshop through the ages

Adobe’s popular image editing software, known as Photoshop, or Adobe Photoshop has undergone major transformations since its inception in 1987. Today, it leads the image manipulation and commercial bitmap markets and is also commonly described as the “industry standard for graphics professionals,” according to CNN.com. Written in the C++ language, Photoshop began as a tool for professionals and print work, but has also become widely used among amateurs and online as well.

The Beginning

Photoshop was first developed in early 1987 when the University of Michigan Ph.D. candidate Thomas Knoll started a program on his early Macintosh Plus computer that would show grayscale images on his black and white screen.

He called this rudimentary program ‘Display,” and showed it to his brother, Industrial Light and Magic employee John Knoll, who suggested that Thomas develop it into image editing software. In 1988, Thomas and John worked on the program, now called Photoshop, and worked out an arrangement with the scanner company, Barneyscan, to distribute the program along with their scanners, says Derrick Story in his article, ‘From Darkroom to Desktop.’

While Barneyscan was distributing Photoshop under the program name Barneyscan XP, John showed the program to software technicians at Apple computer and the art director at Adobe, and both companies loved the presentation. Adobe purchased the rights to distribute Photoshop in late 1988.

Photoshop Today

The newest Photoshop included new support for the Intel-based Macintosh platforms, which were released in 2006, and improved their Windows support to include Windows Vista. Adobe also changed the logo. The iconic feather was now replaced by an icon of white letters on a blue square, an image that correlates with the periodic table of elements themed icons.

They introduced new features to the Camera RAW plug-in and also altered the channel mixer, brightness and contrast, print dialog, curves, vanishing point and black and white conversions. Brand new components include automatic aligning and blending, as well as smart filters that can be applied without destruction.

Adobe improved cloning tools as well as the healing tools and altered the program so that it launches significantly faster. Following the release of CS3, Adobe introduced Photoshop CS3 Extended that added capabilities for scientific images, three-dimensional imagery, along with professional film and video.

Photoshop may be the standard image editor in the industry, but it has also gained popularity among amateurs, and its high market prices have led to an incredibly high rate of piracy among its products. Along with this problem of illegal program use, other companies began releasing graphics editing programs at a lower price to accommodate these amateur editors.

To combat both the piracy and the competitors, Adobe released Photoshop Elements, a version of Photoshop that has many of the professional features removed, and is aimed directly at the general consumers.

Since version 1.0 in 1990, Photoshop has evolved through 10 versions to become the industry leader in image editing. Adobe has adapted to the changing market by adding and improving more tools, security features and plug-ins to their new programs, and they have even combated competitors and illegal use of their programs by introducing a commercial version of their high-end products.

Photoshop has become so popular that its name has been used as a verb to refer to image editing, as in ‘photoshopping’ an image. Adobe highly discourages this, in an attempt to preserve trademark, but it has become a widely used and accepted verb. Photoshop is an excellent example of a program that has successfully met consumer and professional needs, along with providing success and prestige for Adobe.

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Free Software from Web design to Bookkeeping: Shareware and Free Computer Applications for any Purpose

free webdesign software

While Microsoft, Adobe Software and other giants have sold billions in application products, there are excellent free or what is termed, shareware applications, available at virtually no cost. If one has just purchased a computer on a tight budget and wishes to have most every application that others might pay handsomely for, a host of excellent free programs exists with limited drawbacks. While Microsoft has virtually invented the home/business computer in terms of the plethora of software applications, there are many great programs and applications available to anyone for free.

Google Leads the Way in Free Software Applications

Google’s search engine dominance has opened the way for anyone to do almost anything for free using Google’s software tools and applications. The trade media has long chronicled the battle between Google and Microsoft, yet the real winner is ultimately the computer user. Google has released so many excellent tools that are freely available to the end-user such as:

  • Google Desktop – A quick, efficient way of funding documents on the computer
  • Google Earth – A fascinating look at the world or any address in the world
  • Google Video, Images – A listing of both images and video by topic
  • Google Doc – A word processing and spreadsheet application
  • Google Picasa – A way to organize and edit images
  • YouTube – A way to watch, upload and share videos

And this is only a fraction of the number of products available for free.

Other Software Vendors

Google is certainly not the only provider of good free software. Merely running a search on free software or shareware applications will open up a whole new world of web experience. Even if someone wishes to run a small business with free software, there are many options. Many other sites including tucows.com, brothersoft.com, shareware.com, cnet.com, and many others offer hundreds, if not thousands of programs to choose from. Many of the programs may have pop-ups urging a user to buy the more advanced version of a program without the pop-ups, but if a user doesn’t mind a minor intrusion, it’s not usually a problem.

Many software companies are not really companies, at all, but rather an association of users that help to write or modify software that that is kept in the public domain. A good example of that would be Seamonkey or the Seamonkey project. SeaMonkey uses much of the same Mozilla source code which powers Firefox, Thunderbird, Camino, Sunbird, and Miro. These programs are mostly browsers with many added capabilities and are all free and quite reputable.

Free Trials on Software

Many software companies offer free trials by offering the user a 15 or 30-day window to decide whether to buy the program or not. Often these trials have limited capabilities, which may be annoying to a prospective buyer. A good example might be an MP3 recorder/converter program that only allows the user to convert one half or a small percentage of a song. This has the unintended side effect of angering a potential customer who winds up purchasing another program or using a truly free MP3 converter program from another software company.

Another problem to avoid is that some “free” programs come with spyware or in extreme cases, viruses built-in. Therefore, before downloading, a user should check the program out by running searches and determining if the software is from a reputable company. In any event, users must be vigilant and always have a good anti-virus and spyware program in place before downloading any programs from an unknown source.

It is certainly possible to browse the internet and use many different applications that are free. Some have drawbacks in terms of usage, capabilities or pop-ups. At the end of the day, if a user can put up with minor annoyances, the results are quite acceptable.

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