Is It Legal To Sell 3D Printed Designs From Thingiverse?


I know we have all thought about it, “Man this is such a great design, I could make so much money selling this thing on Etsy”. I agree. There are so many fantastic designs on thingiverse and other free model sharing websites. But just because a model is free, doesnt make it legal to reproduce and sell. 

There is a pretty simple way determine a models license status so that you can figure out if it is legal or not to reproduce and sell an item.

It is legal to reproduce and sell items from thingiverse as long as they are licensed as creative commons – attribution. If the item is licensed as creative commons – non-commercial then it is not legal to reproduce and sell the item. 

Creative commons – non-commercial items that are sold may make the seller subject to civil litigation and could potentially lead to fines or suing.

What Is a Creative Commons License?

Creative commons is a classification for the licensing of a product or design. Creative commons can be applied to anything that someone creates such as paintings, recipies, and 3D models.

Creative Commons – Attribution is the most friendly licensce when it comes to reproducing and sellings items. Under a creative commons attribution license anyone is free to reproduce and distribute the product in any medium or format as long as they attribute the design back to the designer.

On thingiverse they have done a very good job of defining the license that a model holds in the side bar on the things page. If you are not able to find an items license classification it is better to contact the designer and get direct permission before printing and selling a design.

Source: creativecommons.org

For more information about creative commons licenses you can visit the creative commons website and read about all the different license types. https://creativecommons.org/

What Is The Difference Between Creative Commons Attribution And Non-Commercial.

The most important two types of creative commons licenses are attribution and non-commercial. The basic difference between the two licenses is that for attribution all you have to do is attribute the design to the designer in order to sell the design. 

In contrast to that, a non-commercial creative commons license anyone is welcome to copy the design, but you are not allowed to commercialize the design in any way without the approval of the designer.

How To Tell If A Thingiverse Model Is Creative Commons – Non-commercial?

Thingiverse makes it pretty simple to tell if a model is creative commons – non-commercial. If you see a dollar sign with a cross through it, dont sell it. If there is no money sign with cross in the license field, you are free to reproduce and sell the item.

Source: Thingiverse.com

The search option on thingiverse doesnt really work well so the only way to know for sure if you can print a specific item is to open the thing page and search for the license section in the left sidebar.

Is It Legal To Sell 3D Printed Models From Other Websites?

There are other free model websites that you can obtain and sell 3D printed objects from but similar to thingiverse there is a license associated with each model.

The license status of these models will be in the description of the model or in the other supporting information. 

Typically the license will be posted in a pretty obvious location so that it is easy for people wanting to sell 3D prints from other peoples designs and also so that the designer is protected from others stealing their design.

It is always better to play it safe when dealing with other peoples designs. If you can not find a models license classification you should not reproduce the item unless you have direct permission from the creator of the design.

Cults3D.com

On cults 3D the license should be listed as shown below. In the case of this models classification it is legal to reproduce and sell a model with this specific license. 

Cults 3D has basically the exact same system as thingiverse when it comes to labeling a models creative commons license classification.

Source Cults3d.com

Thangs.com

Thangs has a similar labeling system for creative commons licenses except they do not have an image showing wheter or not you can sell an item. In this case the text “NonCommercial-NoDerivs” means the model is not legal to reproduce and sell.

Source: Thangs.com

Conclusion.

It is pretty simple to determine whether a model is legal to reproduce and sell on most model sharing websites. It is typically the burden of the creator to pursue anyone that is unlawfully reproducing their design but most reselling websites will work with creators in taking down content if there is any accusations of stealing designs.

I know it can be pretty tempting to go ahead and print and sell other people designs but at the end of the day we should all choose the straight and narrow and not step outside the predetermined lines that have been set in place for us in order to protect the designer as well as to protect ourselves.

To learn more about creative commons licenses check out their website. https://creativecommons.org/

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