Pirate Bay Hosts Physical Objects - And Is Accused Of Infringing Games Workshop Copyright?
File-sharing website The Pirate Bay is for the first time hosting downloadable plans of 3D objects, which can be automatically printed at home with the right equipment.
But just hours after launching its new service the website was subject to claims of copyright infringement.
So-called 3D Printers have been available in some form for many years, and recently have begun to fall in cost - making them more easily and more readily available.
The way 3D printers work can vary widely. Some models use a soft plastic to build 3D objects - resin is laid down in thin layers by the printer, and gradually the strands are build up into a 3D form - while other more expensive printers use lasers to cut objects into shape and can make use of a mixture of materials.
In the past 3D printers have been heralded as providing a means for a new, legitimate and sustainable business model for small companies, and many communities of enthusiasts sharing designs and models have sprung up around the web on that basis.
The Pirate Bay is providing a new way for users to share 3D plans and objects, via Magnet Links and Torrents linked to straight from its website.
In a blog post The Pirate Bay said that physical objects ("physibles") represent "the next step in copying".
"We believe that things like three dimensional printers, scanners and such are just the first step," the website said. "We believe that in the nearby future you will print your spare sparts for your vehicles. You will download your sneakers within 20 years.
"The benefit to society is huge. No more shipping huge amount of products around the world. No more shipping the broken products back. No more child labour.
"We'll be able to print food for hungry people. We'll be able to share not only a recipe, but the full meal. We'll be able to actually copy that floppy, if we needed one."
The dangers for businesses are obvious, however. At a time when the fight over copyright infringement of digital music and movies is still in full swing, fighting the piracy of physical objects via the Internet has the potential to open into a legal minefield.
And as soon as the Pirate Bay 'physibles' section launched, at least one company appeared to have been made a target.
A model listed by an anonymous user as a 'Tabletop Wargaming Robot Model' - but identifiable to the Huffington Post UK as the likeness of a Warhammer 40,000 Space Marine Dreadnought, which is a trademarked design of the UK-based Games Workshop Group PLC - was freely available and had already been downloaded by at least 23 people as of press time.
The model, an official version of which costs £28 from Games Workshop, has been previously listed on a 3D printing community website, but the plans were reportedly pulled after a takedown notice was issued.
The Huffington Post UK was not independently able to test whether the available design was that of an actual Warhammer model, or a design 'inspired' by the official dreadnought.
In addition Games Workshop said they had no comment, and it was not possible to contact the creator of the design as the plans were listed anonymously.
But even though 3D printers remain a relatively niche interest for now, the prospect of widespread copyright infringement in even 5, 10 or 20 years must still be considered a worrying development. As the Pirate Bay themselves point out:
"We believe that things like three dimensional printers, scanners and such are just the first step. We believe that in the nearby future you will print your spare sparts for your vehicles. You will download your sneakers within 20 years."
Music and movies may just be the start. Lawyers, start your engines.