3D Printing Technologies in U.S. Public Libraries: Beyond Copyright

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CONFERENCE: Library Technology Conference

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Lipinski, Tomas
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In the past, the use of photocopy, printing, scanning and related technologies in libraries and schools raised copyright issues alone. A new technology is making its way into public libraries as part of broader maker space initiatives: 3D printing. 3D replicator technology now allows a user to create (that is, "print") three-dimensional objects of all sorts! With 3D technology, staff and patrons can now "print" entire mechanical devices or components of other devices from something as simple as a corkscrew to parts of a prosthetic body part. These technologies raise not only copyright issues, but now include utility and design patents and trademarks, including trade dress. With the ability to print realistic replicas, such as "sharp" or other dangerous objects, questions arise whether a library would be responsible if a patron harmed another person with an object printed at the library. Issues of intellectual freedom are also present should the library desire to prevent patrons from printing certain objects (no replicated plastic firearms in a "gun free zone" or no sex toys). This session will review the basic legal issues under U.S. law, discuss the potential for library liability and offer suggestions for minimizing legal risk.