3D printing & piracy. 3D printing The Settlers of Catan

Roughly an hour ago a tweet emerged stating “3D printing board game piracy is already a thing“. The tweet was pointed towards a thing on Thingiverse called 3D games pieces by Sublime.  The game pieces, if printed out would constitute a complete version of the very popular Settlers of Catan boardgame.

Now everyone with a 3D printer can take this game, 3D print it and have it without paying anything to the designer. The information has spread vast and wide across the internet, possibly forever. And this is before the blogs get a hold of it!   

Through Thingiverse and Twitter the idea of a 3D printed Catan now exists. As long as the file is there somewhere on the internet, people can 3D print Catan. So, you will not only not have to pay Klaus Teuber, the creator of Catan, money for his game this one time. You will never have to give him any money any more for infinite copies of Catan. If the design of the copy is good enough, then potentially no one will ever have to give Klaus money to use Catan. Perhaps the design is so good that remixes of it can be made and these new versions will never have to give Klaus money to use Catan. Perhaps players of future versions will be completely unaware that Klaus existed.

This is clearly not a good thing. I really worry that we are entering a time where it is impossible to make money from ideas. I worry about a time where remixing or popularizing something has surer rewards than inventing something. At the same time I want information to be free and believe that better product design makes the world a better place (and doesn”t this imply sharing is better?). How do we synthesize those seemingly irreconcilable viewpoints? What do you think would work?