A couple of random thoughts got me thinking about Intellectual Property this afternoon. One was a feature in this week’s Economist about the bright future of 3D printing, and how it could fuel increased innovation and localization. The other was a ‘flashback’ from a book I read a while ago: Total Recall, by Bell and Gemmell. Both resulted in the same question: is there any hope for IP?
3D printing has been around for a while, but costs are falling, and more and more companies are using the process not just for rapid prototyping, but also to do small batch runs. We have been working on a project to utilize real-time prototyping at Doremus, and while it is by no means cheap, it is now practical. There are many advantages to these additive production processes, including energy efficiency, fewer raw materials used, and also the ability to create customization at virtually no incremental cost. Roll forward a number of years, and this also becomes a huge headache for managing IP. If physical products float around the Internet as music and video files do today, how can rights owners protect their IP?
On a completely different note, we are already seeing the exponential rise of ‘massive, passive’ data sets from people around the globe getting online and sharing more and more about their lives. Bell and Gemmell point to a future state where our every waking hour is captured, and available to view back: the age of Total Recall. As far fetched as this may sound, it isn’t such a leap. I can easily see the status updates, photos and holiday videos of today becoming the ongoing stream of consciousness of the not too distant future. ‘Massive, passive’ data will increasingly be less about a synopsis of a moment, but the entire moment itself.
If our lives are captured in their entirety, as are our friends’, what implications will there be for content and usage rights? If I once watched a film, or heard a piece of music, how could I be expected to pay to see it again, given that it was a recorded life experience? How can you prevent friends from sharing their content and experiences?
The Internet has already had huge implications for content owners – just ask the music industry – but caught in a perfect storm of massively distributed personal recording, 3D printing and the rise of a China less concerned with IP rights, what hope then for the future of IP? Will the value have to be in original experiences, and also accessing your virtual memory?