Design rights represent an interesting example of how the EU legislature has successfully regulated an otherwise heterogeneous field of law. Yet this type of protection is not for all. The tools created by EU intervention have been drafted paying much more attention to the industry sector rather than to designers themselves. In particular, modern, digitally based, individual or small-sized, 3D printing, open designers and their needs are largely neglected by such legislation. The use of printing machinery to manufacture physical objects created digitally thanks to computer programs such as Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software has been in place for quite a few years, and it is actually the standard in many industrial fields, from aeronautics to home furniture. The change in recent years that has the potential to be a paradigm-shifting factor is a combination between the popularization of such technologies (price, size, usability, quality) and the diffusion of a culture based on access to and reuse of knowledge. We will call this blendOpen Design. It is probably still too early, however, to say whether 3D printing will be used in the future to refer to a major event in human history, or instead will be relegated to a lonely Wikipedia entry similarly to “Betamax” (copyright scholars are familiar with it for other reasons). It is not too early, however, to develop a legal analysis that will hopefully contribute to clarifying the major issues found in current EU design law structure, why many modern open designers will probably find better protection in copyright, and whether they can successfully rely on open licenses to achieve their goals. With regard to the latter point, we will use Creative Commons (CC) licenses to test our hypothesis due to their unique characteristic to be modular, i.e. to have different license elements (clauses) that licensors can choose in order to adapt the license to their own needs.
3D printing Open design