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.
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:
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.
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.