It started when popular Thingiverse designer Loubie discovered the store selling 3D printed copies of one of her 3D models, Aria the Dragon, despite that model carrying a Creative Common Attribution Non-Commercial license. When Loubie was unable to get any sort of a satisfactory response from the seller she took to Thingiverse and uploaded her Sad Face model to draw attention to the issue. And draw attention it did — the comment section exploded with other users who found their work on the seller’s store, and supportive community members who helpfully searched the thousands of models to find those that were being sold out of license.
By the time MakerBot responded, the comments had ballooned to well over 600 (now over 800) and dozens of takedown notices were sent to eBay. MakerBot’s legal team contacted the seller and eBay directly, pointing out the legal inaccuracies in the seller’s responses, and reminding them that they were in very public violation of the law. It looks like the pressure finally got to the stubborn sellers, who removed the last of the 3D printable products that they were selling, and either threw in the towel completely, or hopefully are looking into doing things the right way. In celebration of the Thingiverse community’s victory, Loubie uploaded a new 3D model, this time a Happy Face (also available in a “65% less creepy” version and with a sunshine base!).
Once again MakerBot took to their blog to address the Thingiverse community directly to clarify exactly what a creative commons license is, and how and why they need to be respected. Here is an excerpt from the blog post:
“CC licenses allow Thingiverse users to share their 3D designs with others, so they can make use of and further develop or remix designs. This is what makes Thingiverse special because community members can collaborate and build upon each other’s work. However, uploading designs to Thingiverse doesn’t mean that you give up your rights. It’s quite the contrary: Thingiverse users get to choose to what extent other users can use their uploaded content by choosing a CC license that gives others the right to use their work in very particular ways.
“Two of the most important choices our users can make when selecting a license are whether they require attribution and whether they allow commercial use. Requiring attribution means that you may use a file in exchange for crediting the creator. A user can also choose whether or not they will allow commercial use of their content by choosing the appropriate license.
“In order for this framework to work effectively, everyone needs to respect and comply with the choices the individual makes. MakerBot is committed to supporting the Thingiverse community and we try to make the use of the CC licenses as clear and easy to follow as possible. The licenses are not only clearly stated on each thing page but Thingiverse also provides 2D printable signs to provide attribution for 3D printed objects, for example.”
While everyone in the Thingiverse community should feel very proud of coming together to confront such blatant abuse, it is worth remembering that this is unlikely to be the last time we see violations of this nature. As the eBay sellers in question pointed out in their hilariously long and silly response, there are quite a few other sellers on eBay who have probably made similar licensing violations. If you are a 3D designer and you have restrictive licenses on your work it is probably worth periodically checking eBay and other 3D model marketplaces and verifying that your work isn’t being used or sold out of license.
MakerBot and their legal muscle was undeniably useful in resolving this issue, but we all should remember that most of the leg work was done by the Thingiverse community themselves. MakerBot is simply not in a position to regularly check for violations of this nature, so it is going to have to be a community responsibility and one that everyone is going to have to remain vigilant in maintaining. Make sure that you go check out the entire blog post for the full details about creative commons licenses and how they can be used on Thingiverse. What were your thoughts on this controversy overall? Discuss in the Loubie Wins & Posts Happy Face 3D Model forum over at 3DPB.com.