Filesharing as we know it involves transferring 0s and 1s that usually turn into pixels and electronic sounds. But if The Pirate Bay’s latest idea takes off, filesharing — and digital piracy — will get a whole lot more physical.
In what appears to be as much as a publicity stunt as a serious feature, the site has added a new category alongside the usual audio, video, applications, and games. The physibles category is intended for data that either can, or feasibly could, become a physical object.
Specifically the site is thinking of data for 3D printers, a concept that sounds like science fiction but already exists. One company at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show launched, and is now selling, a $1,749 device that can take a computer 3D model and turn it into a physical object using acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, the same plastic material used to create Lego bricks. The machine also works with polylactic acid, derived from corn starch.
Users can create any object up to 300 cubic inches, roughly the size of a loaf of bread. The standard model only produces objects in one color, though for $250 extra users can have two-color printing. Of course, you can’t make either batteries or mains power cables, so we’re not yet at the terrifying stage when these machines are able to self-replicate.
The PirateBay currently has a dozen torrents for “physible” files, which appear to be largely or entirely compliant with copyright laws. It’s certainly at the demonstration novelty stage, with two of the choices including a toy pirate ship taken from the site’s logo, and a 3D picture of MPAA chief Chris Dodd along with part of the encryption key for Blu-ray discs.
Given the nature of the site and its user base, it will be interesting to see if we ever get to the stage when copyrighted 3D printing design files start getting shared. The Pirate Bay predicts that “you will download your sneakers within 20 years”, which does make you wonder if one day you’ll be able to get counterfeit Nikes without even needing to find a shady street market.