3-D printing: the legal dimension

The remarkable recent advances in make-it-yourself technology are opening up all sorts of new possibilities for users, but also have the potential to freak out the CPSC, FDA, trade agencies and intellectual property lawyers, as well as gun-control advocates. When products extruded from local printers are inevitably involved in injuries, which distant parties can be sued? [Bloomberg]


  • Perhaps the question, when products are involved in injuries which party can be sued, exposes a fallacy in current law. If I produce a crossbow using plans I found in a 1951 Popular Mechanics magazine article downloaded from the Internet, and I cut the wooden pieces according to the plans, and the crossbow I produced is involved in injuring someone (besides myself), how would this be any different than if I “print” plastic gun parts from a program I downloaded? Is the lumber yard where I bought the crossbow material a culpable participant? The owner of the forest where the timber was cut? Of course not. I alone am the culpable party. Lawyers have probably always been parasites — at least long enough ago that they inspired Dickens to write Bleak House (splendid novel, which I have read in its unabridged entirety) — but once they began setting upon car manufacturers for the sins of drivers and so on, lawyers, as a group, made obvious that their objective is to amass piles of money for themselves, not to advance the cause of justice. Their frustration over 3-D printing is that, at least right now, there are no multi-billion-dollar deep-pocket entities who are creating the printer instructions, just unemployed mechanical engineers and such. Considering the culpability for misuse of any object: If I misuse a kitchen knife or a bottle of aspirin, or if I fail to assemble a kit correctly, or if I fail to check and maintain my car before each outing, and someone gets hurt, IT IS MY OWN FAULT. But lawyers must not permit that principle to become too strongly codified, or else lawyers have no one to sue for their own benefit. It’s not very complicated, merely insidious.

  • We have gotten far, far away from PERSONAL responsibility, David, for just the exact reasons you just stated. It can be boiled down to one work, I think: greed.

    I’m just a dumb Engineer, what do *I* know?