09 April 2017

Just Do It... not be jerks, that is

I’ve said at some great length that I’m not a fan of the Creative Commons, at least as far as its role in the art community is concerned. In short, it’s workings are more befitting to a patent enabling software programmers and developers to interface with users/modders without the hassle of red tape. This was called Copyleft. It was later formalized by Richard Stallman when he created the GNU. This was later modified again into the Creative Commons, the primary difference being the “noncommercial” and “no derivatives” clauses as available options. 

My point is, for as much as I dislike the CC, I still acknowledge its place, I respect people’s right to use it (responsibly), and I certainly do not ignore it. 

The following story of people who blatantly ignored the CC license is somewhat old news, with the offending party’s eBay store having not only all of its listings removed, but feedback as well. Just3DPrint is three college kids who offer 3D printing services on commission. If you’re new to 3D printing, don’t worry, you don’t need to understand more than the basics to see exactly how complex this problem’s root system is. As you know, DeviantART offers you a choice of standard copyright or a handful of CC license variations when you post any of your work here. Due to the open source nature of 3D printing on both the hardware and software fronts, sites like Thingiverse and Pinshape, which host user-created CAD models, the standard copyright is not available, only CC or GNU. This may seem onerous, but we have to remember what it means to copyright a work. Copyright reserves the rights to make copies to the rightsholder (hence “all rights reserved”) but putting your file on an online repository with download options specifically meant for people to make a physical copy of your sculpture needs something a little less “reserved” than copyright. There are numerous other reasons why 3D file repositories are set up this way, but that’s the most prominent aspect to the hosting arrangement. 

There is kind of an odd, nebulous gray area to this hosting arrangement involving third-party printing services. 3DHubs is a social network wherein owners of 3D printers, be they big quasi-corporate printer farms or yahoos in their living rooms, can offer their services for a fee. So, what then does that mean for uploaders of 3D files who select the “noncommercial” clause for their CAD file? Sure, DeviantART has an on-demand print service for artwork, but there’s two important things to remember. First, it’s entirely optional regardless of what license you select. Second, you get a cut of the sale. With 3DHubs, you may not even know your file is being printed. Thingiverse uploaders can have “Print” buttons to streamline the process, but a user can still download the file to their own drive and then upload it to 3DHubs directly. With thousands of transactions daily, 3DHubs can’t watchdog every single upload to make sure a noncommercial clause is being violated. The saving grace is that 3D printing is still a fairly niche hobby, so the total amount of “monetary damages” if we’re to use an extreme example is negligible. It’s still a little odd that a transaction started on Thingiverse using their “print this” button doesn’t in some way come back to the original maker. 

I’ll step out of the journal entry to give some advice to any 3D artists or sculptors who may like the idea of people having their own version of your creation. Although 3DHubs does not compensate the creator of the original model directly, Thingiverse has recently implemented a tips jar feature allowing users to send money directly to makers. Meanwhile, Pinshape, which I would consider the superior service from a commerce standpoint, lets creators set their own price for downloads. 

I suppose the saving grace for this flaw, besides the overall small market that 3D printing is today, is that no matter the license you select, due credit must always be given. Granted, this “free publicity” doesn’t put money from a sale directly in the hands of a rightsholder, but it helps deter price gouging by letting people use any printing service they choose. The service does not own the product, so it’s in their best interest to stay competitive. 

Just3DPrint, however, not only offered prints of items carrying a noncommercial clause, but did not even acknowledge, credit, or link the original creators of the models. Thousands of models on Thingiverse were being offered through Just3DPrint’s eBay store, with none of them having attribution details. A well-known Thingiverse user by the name of Loubie helped shed light on this story when she found one of her sculptures available on eBay sans a shout-out (They later said they would correct the listings to give proper credit if politely asked). There was also a noncommercial clause to her CC license, so she did what any rightsholder would do and asked them to remove the listing. 

She was utterly snubbed and told to go fly a kite. 

Loubie reached out to the community by posting some of the correspondence and encouraging other users to check the eBay store to see if any of their models were misappropriated. The comment section of this post exploded when J3DP themselves tried to run damage control and profess their innocence. However badly you may be guessing they failed, the reality is worse.

Their reply was a 3,000+ word diatribe covering a wide variety of subjects under the IP and patent umbrella, nearly all of which was so categorically false that there was no shortage of replies pointing out basics like what a trade secret really is and how the Berne Convention works. 


If you don’t want to go through the whole manifesto, here’s a vertical slice: the original reply from J3DP to Loubie upon her asking they take down their listing of one of her sculptures per its noncommercial license, emphasis mine. 

"When you uploaded your items onto Thingiverse for mass distribution, you lost all rights to them whatsoever. They entered what is known in the legal world as "public domain".The single exception to public domain rules are "original works of art".No court in the USA has yet ruled a CAD model an original work or art.Therefore, you have no right to exclude others from utilizing the CAD models you have uploaded.Furthermore, if in the future we do get a precedent in the USA for establishing CAD models as "original works of art", we would still likely be just fine as we are not re-selling your CAD models, but rather "transformative" adaptions of them in the form of 3D printed objects.
SFEP.S. When you created these CAD files, did you really want to limit the amount of people who could enjoy them to the 0.01% of the USA with a 3D Printer? 100% of America can purchase the items from us at a reasonable cost and enjoy them-creating made in the USA jobs in the process as well. Furthermore, if you hate the idea of people profiteering from your work, you may want to take it up with Makerbot/Stratasys who only hosts Thingiverse for AD revenue, to sell more 3D printers."

The Creative Commons is not the public domain (even the CC-Zero license is merely a formality). The Creative Commons does not replace Copyright. The matter of whether or not CAD files are protected is complex, but only in terms of nomenclature. What J3DP are insisting is that instructions for something are not copyrightable, which is like saying a screenplay is public domain until the movie of it gets made (at which point only the film would be copyrighted and anyone else could still adapt the screenplay). Computer Aided Drafting is not art the same way a painting or an illustration is due to the distinction between form and function, but it is nonetheless sweat of the brow, a product of human endeavor. If you invest the time and energy into creating something, copyright and patents guarantee you protection from what legal experts call freeloading assholes. 

Stratasys themselves have a wonderfully informative post about this: http://consulting.stratasys.com/2016/02/cad-copyright-and-creative-commons-the-infringement-saga-continues/ 

Further comments from the three stooges refer to the license agreement as “a fiction” created by Thingiverse as part of their scheme to profit from its users. We are now officially in foil hat territory. The Creative Commons was not made up by hosting services for nefarious purposes. I would love to see the evidence saying otherwise, but I have a feeling they’d just bring up reptoids or Freemasons or some other garbage boogeyman organization. 

Is it even worth pointing out that Thingiverse does not have advertisements on their site? 

I’m working on a much larger dissection of the J3DP manifesto I hope to have up on my WordPress site in a few weeks. Albeit it’s old news, it’s still so monstrously hilarious in its ignorance and stupidity that until these man-babies own up to their bullshit, I don’t think enough attention can be called to it. Their eBay store may be shut down, but their main site is still up and they are still offering their services. 

Update: This Article https://technical.ly/philly/2016/02/26/just-3d-print-makerbot/ sheds a little more light on their "advisors"