Katy Perry case points to need for law reforms

13 March 2015

Katy Perry’s legal case against a 3D printing artist highlights the need for the reform of Intellectual Property (IP) laws due to the rise of 3D printing technology, according to Australian National University (ANU) legal expert Professor Matthew Rimmer.

The pop star is suing sculptor Fernando Sosa for trying to sell a sculpture based on a dancing shark, the Left Shark, from her Super Bowl XLIX halftime show that became an internet sensation.

Professor Rimmer, from the ANU College of Law, said Katy Perry’s copyright claim to the Left Shark was doubtful.

“The costume is merely a useful article. The internet meme of the Left Shark belongs to the public domain,” he said.

Professor Rimmer has called for a reform of IP laws to avoid a rise in similar cases as 3D printing becomes more commonplace.

“There are tensions arising between those that are using 3D printers and established industries concerned that it might impact upon their IP,” he said.

“Intellectual property laws are ill-adapted to deal with 3D printing in a number of ways. Australia needs to reform its laws, because 3D printing challenges some very basic principles of IP. The lack of a general defence of fair use is a problem for Australian 3D printers, makers and remixers.”

Professor Rimmer argues that without reform, Australia will find itself in a legal minefield unable to deal with the issues arising from the technology.

“We need to make sure the potential of 3D printing isn’t snuffed out by a thicket of law suits or a knee-jerk reaction to disruptive technologies,” he said.

As for the Katy Perry case, Professor Rimmer says we should ‘Free Left Shark’.

“I think we should save Left Shark. Some have suggested we need a bill of rights for 3D printers so they have the freedom to tinker,” he said.

“I think Katy Perry was really over-reaching in terms of her IP claims. I’m not sure she can lay claim to something like a shark mascot. Any follower of Australian football codes knows there is nothing new about people dressed up in shark costumes.”