Ask Hackaday: Selling CAD Prints That Are Not Yours

[Louise] tried out her new E3D Cyclops dual extrusion system by printing a superb model dragon. The piece was sculpted in Blender, stands 13cm tall and can be made without supports. It’s an impressive piece of artwork that reflects the maker’s skill, dedication and hard work. She shared her creation on the popular Thingiverse website which allows others to download the file for use on their own 3D printer. You can imagine her surprise when she stumbled upon her work being sold on eBay.

It turns out that the owner of the eBay store is not just selling [Louise]’s work, he’s selling thousands of other models taken from the Thingiverse site. This sketchy and highly unethical business model has not gone unnoticed, and several people have launched complaints to both Thingiverse and eBay. Now, there are lots of things to talk about here, but the 800 pound high voltage transformer in the room is the legality of the whole thing. What he’s doing might be unethical, but is it illegal?

When [Louise] politely asked the eBay store owner to remove her work, he responded with:

“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.”

Most of the uploaded CAD models on Thingiverse are done under the Creative Commons license, which is pretty clear in its assertion that anyone can profit from the work. This would seem to put the eBay store owner in the clear for selling the work, but it should be noted that he’s not properly attributing the work to the original creator. There are other derivatives of the license, some of which prohibit commercial use of the work. In these cases, the eBay store owner would seem to be involved in an obvious violation of the license.

There are also questions stirring with his use of images.  He’s not taking the CAD model and making his own prints for images. He lifting the images of the prints from the Thingiverse site along with the CAD files. It’s a literal copy/paste business model.

With that said,  the eBay store owner makes a fairly solid argument in the comments section of the post that broke the news. Search for the poster named “JPL” and the giant brick of text to read it. He argues that the Thingiverse non-commercial license is just lip service and has no legal authority. One example of this is how they often provide links to companies that will print a CAD design on the same page of a design that’s marked as non-commercial. He sums up one of many good points with the quote below:

“While we could list several other ways Thingiverse makes (money), any creator should get the picture by now-Thingiverse exists to make Stratasys (money) off of creators’ designs in direct violation of its very own “non-commercial” license. If a creator is OK with a billion-dollar Israeli company monetizing his/her designs, but hates on a Philly startup trying to make ends-meet, then they have a very strange position indeed.”

OK Hackaday readers, you have heard both sides of the issue. Here’s the question(s):

1.  Is the eBay seller involved in illegal activity?

2. Can he change his approach to stay within the limits of the license? For instance, what if he credits the                      original maker on the sale page?

3. How would you feel if you found your CAD file for sale on his eBay store?

Xilinx Borrows Code For Their Own Devices

Back in 2012, [tmbinc] discovered a neat little undocumented feature in the Xilinx ISE: the ability to use TCP/IP instead of JTAG cables. [tmbinc] was working on an Open Hardware USB analyzer and discovered the nearly undocumented Xilinx Virtual Cable, a single ‘shift’ command that opens up a TCP connection and sends JTAG data out to another computer on the network. It’s extraordinarily useful, [tmbinc] wrote a daemon for this tool, and everything was right with the world.

Yesterday, [tmbinc] discovered the Xilinx Virtual Cable again, this time in one of Xilinx’s Github repos. The code was extraordinarily familiar, and looking closer at a few of the revisions, he saw it was very similar to code he had written three years ago.

The offending revision in the Xilinx repo is nearly identical to [tmbinc]’s Xilinx Virtual Cable Driver daemon. Variable names are the same, the variables are declared in the same order, and apart from whitespace, code conventions are the same. This is not to say someone at Xilinx stole code from [tmbinc], but if this were a computer science lab, there would be an academic disciplinary hearing. What’s worse, Xilinx plastered their copyright notice at the top of the code.

In an issue [tmbinc] raised, he said he was flattered, but clarified that his code was developed entirely from scratch. He believes the Xilinx code was derived from his own code written three years ago. Since [tmbinc]’s code was uploaded without a license, it defaulted to All Rights Reserved. This does not bode well for the Xilinx legal department.

In any event, you really, really have to wonder what Xilinx’s internal documentation looks like if a random person on the Internet can discover a barely-documented protocol, write a daemon, put it on the Internet, and have someone at Xilinx use that code.

Thanks to the anonymous tipster for sending this into the Hackaday tip jar.

STM32 demo code carries extra (hidden?) copyrights

Recently I started a repository that houses a template which may be used to compile STM32F0 projects with a GCC toolchain. There are two code packages from STM that I used when putting this together, the firmware for the Discovery board itself, and the Standard Peripheral Library for the chip family. I read the license agreements in the root of both packages and I think they’re quite fair. Basically the agreement is you can use them for any purposes as long as the code is only being used on STM hardware. Fair enough.

You can image I was quite upset so see a comment from a reader stating that I have a copyright violation with one of the files in the repo. It seems the linker script that is given as an example for Atollic’s TrueSTUDIO has it’s own extremely strict copyright:

** (c)Copyright Atollic AB.
** You may use this file as-is or modify it according to the needs of your
** project. Distribution of this file (unmodified or modified) is not
** permitted. Atollic AB permit registered Atollic TrueSTUDIO(R) users the
** rights to distribute the assembled, compiled & linked contents of this
** file as part of an application binary file, provided that it is built
** using the Atollic TrueSTUDIO(R) toolchain.

First off, I’m in violation just for posting the file in a repository. But read a bit deeper. Any code that is compiled with this using a GCC toolchain also breaks the copyright unless it’s Atollic’s toolchain.

My beef here is that STM is distributing this. Why? Why put something so restrictive into a software library with such an otherwise reasonable license? Surely there are many engineers at STM capable of writing a linker script that they could release under their own license which would work with TrueSTUDIO. And, it would have the added benefit of allowing other GCC-based toolchains a convenient (and legal) method of linking code.

So I’ve completely removed the file from the repository. If you were one of the ten people watching it on github, this had the unintended consequence of dumping your watch request. In the mean time I’m trying to learn how to write my own linker. This guide regarding Cortex-M3 linkers has been a great help. If you have the skills to contribute a working linker script, please issue a pull request or raise an issue over at github.

3d printing, the new frontier of piracy?

We’ve all heard the countless arguments about piracy in digital media. However, it appears that 3d printing or other rapid prototyping systems are bringing legal issues to a more physical world. The story goes like this: [Thomas]  bought a 3d printer. He’s a big fan of warhammer figurines. He spends tons of time creating some custom warhammer figures, and uploads them to thingaverse. Games Workshop, the owners of Warhammer, unleashed the lawyers and had the items removed.

There are so many angles to this story, the mind boggles. If I were an artist, and someone else was uploading copies of my work, essentially stopping my revenue, it would suck. Then again, if I were lucky enough to have a fanatical fan base that spread the love for my product with excitement and zeal, I might want to encourage them. Neither of those thoughts however, cover the legal issue at the base here. We don’t have an answer for you. Sorry. You’ll probably be seeing this issue pop up more and more often in the future.

We encourage you to make our logo. Though we haven’t bothered to ask our lawyers.

Hackaday Links: January 24, 2012

Open source engraving

[Scott] wanted to do some v-carving with a CNC router, but couldn’t find software to generate GCode that didn’t cost hundreds of dollars. He ended up doing the sensible thing and wrote his own that will generate tool paths from CXF fonts. We’ll be bookmarking this for when our router project is done.

Improving Genesis sound output

Dissatisfied with the sound output on his Sega Genesis, [Drakon] installed a few mods into his console. How much could it really affect the sound? Listen to the video. The changeover happens at 0:50. Impressive. Now if only the chiptune scene would get into Segas.

Yes, we did, and now we’re seeding

Here’s an alternative to Thingiverse: The Pirate Bay has a new category for 3D-printable objects. The best file so far? A 1970 Chevelle. US Copyright law does not protect (most) physical objects, so it’s not illegal. Honestly, we can’t wait for somebody to take this to the courts; It’s sure to be an interesting case. Somebody upload a ship hull design and give the EFF a buzz.

Just be glad it’s not a QFN

[Mikey] was pulling a PDIP ATMega8 out of a socket with pliers and a screwdriver and broke the RESET pin. Ouch. He fixed it by soldering on a lead from a resistor. We’ve all done this before, but [Mikey]’s results look really good. Here’s the gallery.

This might be fake

If you want a second analog stick for your 3DS, you could wait a month and buy a Circle Pad Pro, or install a PSP analog stick. We’re not sure how this would work – the Circle Pad Pro works over IR, and we’re not seeing an IR transmitter on this build. Here’s the source if anyone wants to give this a shot.

ICE uses wide set of tools to hunt for media pirates

If you’re rebroadcasting copyrighted video streams how will the authorities ever track you down? Well it looks like you don’t even need to be the content originator, and they’ll track you down because you didn’t really cover your tracks in the first place. [Brian McCarthy] found this out the hard way when his domain name was seized by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement earlier this year.

So how did  they find him? They started by getting the records from the domain name registrar. He had used an alias instead of his real name so the next step in the investigation was to get a name from Comcast to go with the IP which had logged into the name registrar’s interface. They matched the Comcast account holder’s home address with the one given during domain registration, then matched the Gmail account registration infor from the registrar to the same person. The final piece of the puzzle was to stake out his house (no kidding) to confirm that [Brian] lived at the address uncovered by investigators.

ICE really went the whole nine yards. Especially if consider that the website they seized provided links to copyrighted media but didn’t actually host any of it. Nonetheless, [Brian] could find himself spending five years in the clink… ouch.

Thingiverse Receives First DMCA Takedown

A landmark in home 3d printing was set when [Dr. Ulrich Schwanitz] sent a DMCA takedown notice to Thingiverse.com on users [artur83] and [chylld’s] takes on his Penrose triangle model. ([chylld’s] take is pictured above) While the takedown itself is highly debatable, we do think it’s cool that home 3d printing has come far enough to begin infringing on the copyrights of objects themselves. Right now media pirating has the front stage, but it’s not hard to look a little further into the crazy sci-fi universe that is our future and see a battle being fought over the rights to physical objects.

[via Thingiverse Blog]