Licensing System for 3D Printing in China - impact follow on

Lead Research Organisation: University of Exeter
Department Name: School of Law


This project enables the application to creative 3DP works of the digital licensing technology developed under an autonomous project of the AHRC Centre for Digital Copyright and Intellectual Property Research in China (AH/N504300/1). The prior project developed a digital watermarking technology that enabled the tracking and tracing of 3DP content, from its creation through to its destruction. A watermark is embedded into creative content; our technology made the technology easier to implement and difficult to remove, thus enabling new forms of 3DP works. The technology was successfully demonstrated operating at our conference in China in 2017, and received widespread and acclaimed international press and television coverage. It has been granted a patent in China in August 2020. The funding in this follow-on proposal provides the means to be able to successfully exploit the technology developed. At the moment, the proposed technology is successful in tracking and tracing but we need to work with companies to successfully attach the technology to existing licensing platforms, which in turn will lead to further new forms of creative 3DP works. We have the support of firms Wanxiang Qianchao and AAU to do just this.

To attach the technology to an existing licensing platform will allow for the use of 3DP content in new creative ways, leading to new artistic forms. For example, our technology could be attached to 3DP materials themselves, resolving an ongoing problem in ensuring the quality of materials which are used for printing. This could allow for more complex artistic works; it could even lead to organic works involving 3DP biological material. Our technology would open up new markets, even overcoming existing regulatory hurdles. This is because the technology would enable right holders to guarantee sources of materials, and can be used to check if the structure of a 3DP object has changed internally.

The technology provides numerous possibilities for the development of 3DP technologies, but it also presents some risks. The ability to track and trace content, and align it to a licensing system, provides an ability to track and trace the use of physical objects in a manner similar to tracking and tracing of online activities. Recent events with companies like Cambridge Analytica show the perils of that. We will therefore develop the technology in a way that will protect that information, in the core code. The inventor of the modern day Internet, Tim Berners-Lee, has advocated that the Internet protocols should have been developed with privacy in mind from the ground up. This is what we will do in our system, and establish in our codes of conduct. In this way, individual privacy in the physical world with 3DP content can be protected, before competing systems that do not predominate.


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