Thingiverse Creative Commons Licenses Explained

Happy Face ScreenshotHappy Face (New Face!) by loubie

Three weeks ago, we discussed a case of an eBay seller here on our blog who was violating the rights of several Thingiverse users. The seller was offering prints of Thingiverse designs on eBay while completely ignoring the licenses our users attached to these designs. The Thingiverse community rallied behind this cause and well-known designer Loubie created a Sad Face that quickly became a symbol for this controversy, garnering more than 850 comments. In the spirit of Thingiverse, many users iterated on the design and uploaded their own versions to show their support. Since then, the eBay seller has taken down their store and we’re happy to see that the Sad Face is now a Happy Face!

As mentioned in our first blog post, we take violations of our users’ rights very seriously. Our legal team has reached out to the seller to explain the legal situation and urge him not to engage in this kind of activity again. Thingiverse is an open community and we appreciate anyone engaged in offering innovative 3D printing services as long as he/she respects the choices our users make, which we see as a bedrock principle of respect.

This case has spurred a lively discussion in the 3D printing community about Creative Commons (CC) licenses, and we want to take this opportunity to take a closer look at how these licenses work.

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.

When you download a thing from Thingiverse, you agree to the applicable license that the uploader has chosen, which binds you to its terms. This process is also explained in the Thingiverse Terms of Use, which are clearly displayed on each listings page. Each downloaded file from Thingiverse includes the license that has been selected by the creator and which outlines your rights for using the file.

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.

The engaged and passionate response to this issue has renewed discussions here at MakerBot on how we can better serve the Thingiverse community. MakerBot will continue to stand up for the rights of our users and we’re working on additional ways to support our community in doing so. We will share additional updates on these efforts in the coming weeks and months.

If you’d like to learn more about CC licenses, please visit the Creative Commons website: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/.