3D printing copyright/protocol questions

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takaaaa

Active Member
Hello,
So I have been 3D printing for a while now and I have been getting more and more requests by friends and family to print things for them. I was thinking about starting just a small local 3D printing service.
My question is, what is the protocol and copyright behind an idea like this?
I was thinking that I would only offer printing services and charge for the print time and not the 3D file, since I dont own any of the files.
So would making them find the files, weather they have to pay for the file or not, and I just charge for the printing, allowed?

How should I approach this?
 

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Mister Kite

New Member
My advice would be to use Shapeways as a model: In most instances, require customer to provide their own 3D models.

Alternately, there are a lot of 3D models that you can find and download that are offered freely for any use. You could offer a catalog of items that customers could choose from.

Beyond those, you could also offer a 3D modeling service at an additional cost, if you have the skills to do custom work. For that, you'd probably want to charge by the hour, but you'd have to be pretty familiar with how you work, so that you could provide accurate quotes. You don't want to provide a quote for two hours of work if it ends up taking six hours. Then you're either working for free or, worse, springing unexpected expenses on your client.
 

takaaaa

Active Member
My advice would be to use Shapeways as a model: In most instances, require customer to provide their own 3D models.

Alternately, there are a lot of 3D models that you can find and download that are offered freely for any use. You could offer a catalog of items that customers could choose from.

Beyond those, you could also offer a 3D modeling service at an additional cost, if you have the skills to do custom work. For that, you'd probably want to charge by the hour, but you'd have to be pretty familiar with how you work, so that you could provide accurate quotes. You don't want to provide a quote for two hours of work if it ends up taking six hours. Then you're either working for free or, worse, springing unexpected expenses on your client.

Yeah Shapeways is a very well known site that offers similar services, but the part about free files for "any use" is there things get confusing to me.
When the 3D modeler upload a file for free, does that mean I can use the images and file to offer 3D printing. I'm not selling the file, but charging to print from that file.
I dont want to break any copyright or anything.

Ill worry about the costs to charge after this whole thing is more clear to me. haha
 

Mister Kite

New Member
There are some sites that sell 3D models and also have a selection of free models. The page for a particular model has license rights, some of which will allow you to use it in any way you see fit. I haven't dealt with it too much--I've only come across them when searching for something specific--but it's similar to Flickr, where each photo has a different level of privileges... some are non-commercial use only, some are not okay to you at all, some are totally open, etc.

You just need to have a look through some 3D sites and see what you can find.

If you're thinking of doing mostly local business, you can probably just print whatever you want for whoever you want without worry of getting caught, but you'll have to be guided by your morality on that score.
 

takaaaa

Active Member
There are some sites that sell 3D models and also have a selection of free models. The page for a particular model has license rights, some of which will allow you to use it in any way you see fit. I haven't dealt with it too much--I've only come across them when searching for something specific--but it's similar to Flickr, where each photo has a different level of privileges... some are non-commercial use only, some are not okay to you at all, some are totally open, etc.

You just need to have a look through some 3D sites and see what you can find.

If you're thinking of doing mostly local business, you can probably just print whatever you want for whoever you want without worry of getting caught, but you'll have to be guided by your morality on that score.

Yeah I know a many sites that members and people can upload 3d files they made to be downloaded for free. But I'm not sure if I'm allowed to offer to print the artists stuff or if I should just let the person find the file and give it to me to print. How they get the files is all on them kind of thing. like Shapeways, how I can download a free file and send it to them to print. They have nothing to do with how I get the file and just charging on the printing services.
I know that just asking the artist for permission, but asking all of them will take forever, not to mention if they posted it years ago and dont reply.

I defiantly dont want to work with the "hope I dont get caught" route. haha I also dont want to rip off an artist hard work. even if im not selling their file.
 

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JOATRASH FX

Master Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
If someone brings the file for you to print and you are only charging for the actual print service, I would say that the responsibility is with the client. (I.e. you assume that they have permission to have the item manufactured.) There's no practical way that you can check and verify every model any more than a sporting goods store can make sure that people buying baseball bats aren't smashing windows with them. If you're uncertain, put a disclaimer (just like Shapeways) saying that it's the client's responsibility to make sure they have permission to order the file. Odds are that if they have the file, they probably have permission to print it at least for personal use and you can't realistically be held responsible beyond that unless you actually know that the person is a known counterfeiter or recaster.

If YOU are to obtain the file, the responsibility of permission to replicate falls on you of course. Most sites will have a licensing/copyright notice that explains what you can or can't do with the model. (One commonly used license is "creative commons".)
 

takaaaa

Active Member
If someone brings the file for you to print and you are only charging for the actual print service, I would say that the responsibility is with the client. (I.e. you assume that they have permission to have the item manufactured.) There's no practical way that you can check and verify every model any more than a sporting goods store can make sure that people buying baseball bats aren't smashing windows with them. If you're uncertain, put a disclaimer (just like Shapeways) saying that it's the client's responsibility to make sure they have permission to order the file. Odds are that if they have the file, they probably have permission to print it at least for personal use and you can't realistically be held responsible beyond that unless you actually know that the person is a known counterfeiter or recaster.

If YOU are to obtain the file, the responsibility of permission to replicate falls on you of course. Most sites will have a licensing/copyright notice that explains what you can or can't do with the model. (One commonly used license is "creative commons".)

Ok that's what I thought. But now to go deeper, what about for example, if someone gives me a file and I print it and upload WIP photos. Then another person sees it and say "can you print that for me too?" Do I have to tell them to find the file? or is giving links to sites that have free 3D files allowed?
I have read a lot of copyright stuff but some areas are still very unclear to me and want to make sure I do this right.
 

JOATRASH FX

Master Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
Ok that's what I thought. But now to go deeper, what about for example, if someone gives me a file and I print it and upload WIP photos. Then another person sees it and say "can you print that for me too?" Do I have to tell them to find the file? or is giving links to sites that have free 3D files allowed?
I have read a lot of copyright stuff but some areas are still very unclear to me and want to make sure I do this right.

If someone else brought you the file, you have to ask the person that gave it to you for permission to use it again unless you know for certain that the file has been released openly free to use. You are just providing the print service... you don't have ANY rights to use the file again, not even for personal use, unless you know that it is "free" under whatever license is relevant.

Think of it like this: If I spent 100+ hours on a 3d model for a project and went to a place to get it printed and after completing my order, they gave the file away or printed more of the object to sell, I would probably consider legal action. I know places that have printed props for movies, but if I called and asked them if they'd print me a copy they'd tell me to go stuff myself...!

If you know places where there are free, openly available files, there is no reason that you can't give someone the link. So if you know the file came from a place like Thingiverse and that is has an open (free to use) license, go ahead and print it again for whomever wants it.
 

takaaaa

Active Member
If someone else brought you the file, you have to ask the person that gave it to you for permission to use it again unless you know for certain that the file has been released openly free to use. You are just providing the print service... you don't have ANY rights to use the file again, not even for personal use, unless you know that it is "free" under whatever license is relevant.

Think of it like this: If I spent 100+ hours on a 3d model for a project and went to a place to get it printed and after completing my order, they gave the file away or printed more of the object to sell, I would probably consider legal action. I know places that have printed props for movies, but if I called and asked them if they'd print me a copy they'd tell me to go stuff myself...!

If you know places where there are free, openly available files, there is no reason that you can't give someone the link. So if you know the file came from a place like Thingiverse and that is has an open (free to use) license, go ahead and print it again for whomever wants it.

So things on sites like thingverse, where its free to download, makes it ok to print and offer printing that specific item? Or will I still need to let the customer send me the file from the link I give him?
for example. I send a link to a item on thingverse where the customer can download the file for free, he downloads it and sends it to me. Since I know that it was free to download, I can print it again for someone who asks for that same item? Or anything where the artist allows people to download for free, ok to use? (not needing the customer download and send it to me, i just download it myself, since i know where it's coming from is a free site?)
Since thingverse is open license.

Thanks for all the help so far, Im slowly understanding all of this.
 

takaaaa

Active Member
Ok so I just noticed that on thingverse they tell you what licenses are attached. most of them say this

"You are free to:

  • Share — copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format
  • Adapt — remix, transform, and build upon the material
  • for any purpose, even commercially.

  • The licensor cannot revoke these freedoms as long as you follow the license terms."

    So does that mean Im all in the clear to use the files? just not sell the files itself of course and credit the artist.
 

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Ironic Chef

New Member
Copyright law is sadly complex and murky, but here are some reasonable guidelines... 1] If you are strictly providing a service to print an item for which you have been supplied the template, and you deliver the product only to the client, then you're *probably* safe from any infringement. You are protected by the reasonable expectation that the client has the right to reproduce, and you have not benefited from the transaction in any manner that causes a fiscal loss to the owner of the IP. That said, when IP becomes an issue to major stakeholders, there is the chance that you can be named in a lawsuit and may have to spend a lot of money defending your actions - your best recourse is to insure that, like Shapeways, you require customers to confirm that they have acquired the necessary reproduction rights. If the client claims they have the right to reproduce and don't, and they subsequently lie to you, then you're mostly safe (though you can still get named in a lawsuit and have to provide proof that you made a 'reasonable effort' to not engage in illicit activity). 2) If you are contacted by a potential customer who wants a print of something that someone else initially provided you with, and that item is NOT clearly in the public domain (and really, not much stuff actually is) then the best advice is to provide that individual with contact information for the person who originally submitted the template and tell him/her to do a private deal for the use of the template. The new customer can, if they get the data, provide you with their personal copy of the template data and you're once again off the hook as far as proving that you were just providing a service. 3) What you absolutely can't do is receive data from a client, fulfill their order, and then offer that item for sale UNLESS the item was clearly in the public domain in the first place, or you have a licensing agreement with that customer (one which proves that the client either had the appropriate reproduction rights, or that proves they lied to you about having the rights). Be aware that most of the printable templates on the net are not public domain - many are governed by either Creative Commons licenses or are property of an existing rights holder. Just because you can download an Iron Man mask template from a whole lot of places does not mean you have the right to print it and sell it. Just because a template is offered for free does not mean that you can print/sell it yourself - most often 'free' templates are offered for personal use only. 4) You also cannot legally reproduce an item that falls under the IP ownership of another individual/company, even if you create the necessary template data yourself. That said, mostly transactions like these fall under the radar of rights holders - producing a dozen screen accurate replicas for other dedicated fans at a small profit to yourself is probably not going to incur the ire of major rights holders, and that's why nobody slams down a ban-hammer on RPFers... mostly. But if you go down that road you *may* find a cease-and-desist letter arriving at your door, and if that happens then you should absolutely do as instructed. Otherwise you will likely find yourself on the wrong end of a battle with a very well financed team of lawyers that will spend you into oblivion. Bottom line - if you want to produce saleable prints without all the nonsense that goes with IP issues then only offer them to friends, family and the handful of folks you are certain that are prop fans and not lawyers fishing for fresh blood. If you're not sure about a client, then don't do business unless it's absolutely confirmed to be above reproach. Otherwise, it's the wild west out there and you're basically on your own.
 

GhostMinion

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
Speaking ONLY on freely shared files.............and considering that proper credit is given where it is due..............

You cannot steal something that is free. It's as simple as that folks. Period.



As far as private files go............as a print service provider myself, if someone has you print a model they provide and they want that file to stay private, you must abide. As a print service provider, you cannot worry about the nature of how they got their model. It isn't your problem to worry about, state a disclaimer to make that know.
 

takaaaa

Active Member
Copyright law is sadly complex and murky, but here are some reasonable guidelines... 1] If you are strictly providing a service to print an item for which you have been supplied the template, and you deliver the product only to the client, then you're *probably* safe from any infringement. You are protected by the reasonable expectation that the client has the right to reproduce, and you have not benefited from the transaction in any manner that causes a fiscal loss to the owner of the IP. That said, when IP becomes an issue to major stakeholders, there is the chance that you can be named in a lawsuit and may have to spend a lot of money defending your actions - your best recourse is to insure that, like Shapeways, you require customers to confirm that they have acquired the necessary reproduction rights. If the client claims they have the right to reproduce and don't, and they subsequently lie to you, then you're mostly safe (though you can still get named in a lawsuit and have to provide proof that you made a 'reasonable effort' to not engage in illicit activity). 2) If you are contacted by a potential customer who wants a print of something that someone else initially provided you with, and that item is NOT clearly in the public domain (and really, not much stuff actually is) then the best advice is to provide that individual with contact information for the person who originally submitted the template and tell him/her to do a private deal for the use of the template. The new customer can, if they get the data, provide you with their personal copy of the template data and you're once again off the hook as far as proving that you were just providing a service. 3) What you absolutely can't do is receive data from a client, fulfill their order, and then offer that item for sale UNLESS the item was clearly in the public domain in the first place, or you have a licensing agreement with that customer (one which proves that the client either had the appropriate reproduction rights, or that proves they lied to you about having the rights). Be aware that most of the printable templates on the net are not public domain - many are governed by either Creative Commons licenses or are property of an existing rights holder. Just because you can download an Iron Man mask template from a whole lot of places does not mean you have the right to print it and sell it. Just because a template is offered for free does not mean that you can print/sell it yourself - most often 'free' templates are offered for personal use only. 4) You also cannot legally reproduce an item that falls under the IP ownership of another individual/company, even if you create the necessary template data yourself. That said, mostly transactions like these fall under the radar of rights holders - producing a dozen screen accurate replicas for other dedicated fans at a small profit to yourself is probably not going to incur the ire of major rights holders, and that's why nobody slams down a ban-hammer on RPFers... mostly. But if you go down that road you *may* find a cease-and-desist letter arriving at your door, and if that happens then you should absolutely do as instructed. Otherwise you will likely find yourself on the wrong end of a battle with a very well financed team of lawyers that will spend you into oblivion. Bottom line - if you want to produce saleable prints without all the nonsense that goes with IP issues then only offer them to friends, family and the handful of folks you are certain that are prop fans and not lawyers fishing for fresh blood. If you're not sure about a client, then don't do business unless it's absolutely confirmed to be above reproach. Otherwise, it's the wild west out there and you're basically on your own.

So what if the specific print file says:

"You are free to:


  • Share — copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format
  • Adapt — remix, transform, and build upon the material
  • for any purpose, even commercially.



  • The licensor cannot revoke these freedoms as long as you follow the license terms."

Does that count as proof that I am within legal rights to print and even offer multiple prints?
Im not trying to get rich off of other people's hard work, I'm jsut trying to understand whats the boundaries.

Speaking ONLY on freely shared files.............and considering that proper credit is given where it is due..............

You cannot steal something that is free. It's as simple as that folks. Period.



As far as private files go............as a print service provider myself, if someone has you print a model they provide and they want that file to stay private, you must abide. As a print service provider, you cannot worry about the nature of how they got their model. It isn't your problem to worry about, state a disclaimer to make that know.

Yeah I agree about if the customer doesnt want me to share or ask where he got the file and adding that to a disclaimer.
 

Ironic Chef

New Member
If you are selling an item for profit that you can absolutely prove you have the right to produce then you're fine. But just because someone else has proclaimed that an item is free to use does not grant you the right to produce that item for profit IF it there is prior ownership. Again, just 'cause someone has uploaded their own Iron Man mask template and offered it "free" does not grant you the privilege to profit at the expense of the owner of the original property.

If you reproduce an item that is provably the intellectual property of someone else, and you've done so such that you've personally profited from the effort, and they come after you for it, then you're going to be nailed for theft of their IP. Even if you just made a single replica that you sold for ten bucks more than than it cost you to create, you're screwed.

But, as I previously noted, that's not a likely scenario as long as you're producing no more than a few dozen replicas for die-hard fans - it's not worth the effort of the legal departments to chase anyone down for a few hundred bucks, and most (though not all) IP owners are clued-in enough to realize that the die-hard fans are best left to promote their products through private projects.

Basically, if you don't poke the bear, it's not gonna wake up and maul you.

If you try to turn your side business of making a dozen or two prints into products that can be sold in Wallmart then you'll quickly find yourself on the wrong end of a multimillion dollar lawsuit.

Yeah, as I said initially, it's all pretty murky and complicated. Just know that basically you have no actual right to produce almost anything, and that you will mostly get a pass so long as the amount of money you receive for your work can be considered meaningless by anyone who might have a vested interest or ownership in the property.
 

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takaaaa

Active Member
If you are selling an item for profit that you can absolutely prove you have the right to produce then you're fine. But just because someone else has proclaimed that an item is free to use does not grant you the right to produce that item for profit IF it there is prior ownership. Again, just 'cause someone has uploaded their own Iron Man mask template and offered it "free" does not grant you the privilege to profit at the expense of the owner of the original property.

If you reproduce an item that is provably the intellectual property of someone else, and you've done so such that you've personally profited from the effort, and they come after you for it, then you're going to be nailed for theft of their IP. Even if you just made a single replica that you sold for ten bucks more than than it cost you to create, you're screwed.

But, as I previously noted, that's not a likely scenario as long as you're producing no more than a few dozen replicas for die-hard fans - it's not worth the effort of the legal departments to chase anyone down for a few hundred bucks, and most (though not all) IP owners are clued-in enough to realize that the die-hard fans are best left to promote their products through private projects.

Basically, if you don't poke the bear, it's not gonna wake up and maul you.

If you try to turn your side business of making a dozen or two prints into products that can be sold in Wallmart then you'll quickly find yourself on the wrong end of a multimillion dollar lawsuit.

Yeah, as I said initially, it's all pretty murky and complicated. Just know that basically you have no actual right to produce almost anything, and that you will mostly get a pass so long as the amount of money you receive for your work can be considered meaningless by anyone who might have a vested interest or ownership in the property.

So what does that part about "You are free too..." that I posted from the site mean?
 

JOATRASH FX

Master Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
Again, just 'cause someone has uploaded their own Iron Man mask template and offered it "free" does not grant you the privilege to profit at the expense of the owner of the original property.

If you reproduce an item that is provably the intellectual property of someone else, and you've done so such that you've personally profited from the effort, and they come after you for it, then you're going to be nailed for theft of their IP.

If the owner has posted the file under conditions that grant such use, you can do whatever you want with it and they can't come after you. If what Takaaa quoted in the bullet point list was indeed correct and there are no other conditions, then you could exploit the file freely according to the conditions listed.

(This is why I never give out files for any reason.)
 

zenix

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
How about sending a message to the designer and asking? We always like to hear from people who like our designs. Its part of the reason we share them.
 

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