Just over a week ago, the awesome Loubie (really – go check out her designs) posted Sad Face! on Thingiverse about the just3dprint.com eBay store, which was selling 3D prints of thousands of things off Thingiverse, using the original photos.
This would have been fine had they abided by the licenses (mostly Creative Commons) attached to the files they downloaded from Thingiverse. They did not. And when confronted by Loubie and others, they basically said, well you shouldn’t have posted it to Thingiverse if you didn’t want it in the public domain and CAD models are not copyrightable and Creative Commons licenses are useless anyway.
Their grasp on copyright law with regards to 3D design is a bit dubious, as Michael Weinberg discusses in his excellent blog post about the whole mess. They may have some points, but they’re just being jerks.
It would be fascinating enough for me to watch all of this as an uninvolved party, but Just 3D Print lifted one of my designs and photos for their store.
The 8-Bit Heart Pendant was a Valentines Day gift, inspired by a papercraft project I’d seen. It seemed insane to me to glue up a bunch of layers by hand when I had access to a 3D printer, or better yet, a laser cutter. So I adapted the basic design for cutting out of red acrylic, which I thought looks rather cool.
I didn’t post it to Thingiverse until I saw Schmarty posted an almost identical thing a year earlier, so (trying not to be a jerk) I linked to the papercraft version and called my thing a remake of Schmarty’s. I intentionally chose a very permissive CC-BY license because that’s what Schmarty had done on his, and the design was frankly not enough my own for me to care about people using it.
I rather like the cover photo that I took. And a week ago I would have said I consider the photo to have the same license as the thing (CC-BY). But it was pointed out in Michael Weinberg’s blog that the license could probably be considered to cover only the downloadable files, and the photo is not downloadable. So, I would now say that I retain full copyright on the photo, but that I had granted Thingiverse a license to use it in association with my thing.
I really wouldn’t care if Just 3D Print were selling prints of the 8-Bit Heart Pendant in their store. I would just want them to link to the Thingiverse thing so that people would know where it came from and could download the files themselves if they wanted. I believe that transparency is vital on the bleeding edge of any new business model. They did not provide that link, they did not credit me or Thingiverse, and they used my photo without asking me.
Because I did not use a non-commercial license, I decided my best approach was to submit an intellectual property claim on eBay regarding the photo. I submitted this almost a week ago, with no response from eBay, and with the item still in the eBay store. Until this morning, when I got an error.
The item was gone. In fact, their entire store was empty. There is much celebration on Thingiverse, but no word on what actually happened. eBay may have received enough complaints that they decided to empty the store (though I believe they would ban the user in the case of multiple IP violations). MakerBot may have sent a cease-and-desist to Just 3D Print and/or eBay. Or Just 3D print may have just gotten tired of the grief and bad PR.
The funny thing is, the 8-Bit Heart Pendant was primarily designed as a laser cut object, and that is what the photo is of. I did extrude a 3D model and included it as an STL file, which is no doubt what they were using for their sales. So anyone who actually ordered one of these would have gotten something very different from what was represented in their eBay store. I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me that a company that cared so little about the ethics of lifting thousands of designs from Thingiverse would care so little about their customer’s experience.
Just 3D Print is a Philadelphia startup offering 3D CAD design and printing services. It’s super cool that there is a place in the world for this kind of company. And there are plenty of designs on sites like Thingiverse which are literally begging to be used for this purpose. With just a little respect for the designers, they could have turned the Thingiverse community into a huge sales force – for free.
Instead, they just got a barrage of bad press and angry e-mails.
Please, don’t be a jerk. It’s not that hard.