Thingiverse has millions of 3D printable models licensed under the Creative Commons 4.0 CC suite. On this website, you can discover new designs, download those you want to print at home, and share the 3D printable files you create. However, can you sell 3D-printed items from Thingiverse?
You can sell 3D-printed items from Thingiverse, but your model needs to be in the public domain, licensed for commercial use, or your original design. It’s illegal to sell prints of designs with non-commercial licenses unless you have permission or waivers from creators.
Thingiverse designs and 3D-printed models don’t have conventional copyrights, patents, or trademarks. However, the Creative Commons license attributions can help you determine how to use these designs. Stick around to find out how you can make money selling your 3D prints on Thingiverse without infringing upon anyone’s rights.
Selling From Thingiverse: What You Need To Know
Selling from Thingiverse may be a straightforward proposition if you find a design in the Public Domain or licensed with commercial attribution. The latter only asks you to give credit to the original creator without explicitly or implicitly indicating the designer or licensor’s endorsement.
If a design on Thingiverse doesn’t have the Public Domain mark or the commercial attribution in the licensing details, you cannot sell copies or models using it. Even if you significantly change a model, using other peoples’ designs without a public domain license is illegal.
So, you need to know the permissions and restrictions of Creative Commons licenses.
The Permissions and Restrictions of Creative Common Licenses
On Thingiverse, you will find seven types of licenses, including or without attributions. These six licenses, all with the CC affix, are legal to sell 3D prints of:
- CC BY
- CC BY-NC
- CC BY-ND
- CC BY-NC-ND
- CC BY-SA
- CC BY-NC-SA
The Public Domain mark is an open license. In other words, there’s no copyright for the specific design. This attribution is written as Public Domain, usually accompanied by a diagonally struck off ©.
A thing on Thingiverse can have the Public Domain mark in the following scenarios:
- The design has no exclusive owner, specific designer or entity, etc.
- The designer or owner has chosen to license the work as such.
- No one owns the intellectual property of the design.
- The trademark, patent, or copyright applicable has expired.
Public Domain licenses don’t have any restrictions on commercial use.
You can sell 3D printed items from Thingiverse if they don’t have any licensing attribution other than Public Domain. You cannot and don’t have to give credit to anyone, either, because no one owns the rights.
CC BY is the most open Creative Commons license. BY is a license attribution requiring you to give credit to the original creator or designer.
Any CC BY license on Thingiverse gives you the right to use a design for commercial purposes. Hence, you can sell such 3D-printed items.
Still, you should review the licensing information to ensure you don’t miss out on any associated attribution. Also, some creators may ask for a specific credit for the use of any kind, whether commercial or non-commercial.
A great example of this limitation would be the inclusion of a signature or logo on an inconspicuous part of the print to credit the original artist.
That said, you don’t need any permission or written consent to sell 3D-printed items of CC BY licensed designs on Thingiverse.
Whenever you sell a 3D printed item of a Public Domain or CC BY licensed model, account for the tax implications because the IRS rules have changed recently.
Until 2022, you didn’t have to worry about the Form 1099-K for third-party payments or network transactions unless you had more than 200 units of sale per year or the aggregate amount was over $20,000. An aggregate or individual transaction over $600 can trigger a 1099-K.
This new rule applies to all e-commerce platforms and payment portals, networks, and systems, including but not limited to the following:
The CC BY-NC license has a non-commercial attribution. You cannot sell 3D printed items of designs having this license. The non-commercial attribution is enforceable regardless of all the changes you may make to the original design, including the possibility of a visibly similar model.
If you are using the original design and any of its code to make the modified 3D-printed item, the model is still supposed to be a non-commercial creation. You can only sell such printed items from Thingiverse if the owner waives the non-commercial attribution.
Alternatively, you could enter a commercial agreement with the licensor or owner and give them a commission on your proceeds.
The CC BY-NC license doesn’t restrict you from making changes or sharing the design or model with due credit given to the licensor or owner.
The CC BY-ND license has the no-derivatives attribution. With this license, you can sell 3D-printed items, but you cannot change the original design or model. The no-derivatives attribution covers the following:
Thus, you can commercialize a CC BY-ND licensed design and must provide due credit to the owner, except you must 3D print the items exactly as the original file, whether you are selling or sharing non-commercially.
The CC BY-SA license has share-alike attribution. You can sell 3D-printed items licensed as CC BY-SA. However, you cannot impose any licensing attribution or restriction on your creation. You must credit the licensor, as with other licenses, and pass on the same attributions to others.
Hence, other users may also sell the 3D-printed items you sell when using a CC BY-SA design. In addition, other users are allowed to sell your model version if you have made any modifications to the model.
Neither is the original design non-commercial nor is any modified or upgraded version you create.
The CC BY-NC-ND license is the most restrictive of all Creative Commons attributions. Here’s what you can and cannot do with a CC BY-NC-ND Thingiverse model:
- You can’t use such designs for commercial purposes, so you cannot sell 3D-printed items from Thingiverse with the CC BY-NC-ND license.
- You can’t share the design with any changes whatsoever to these designs because of the no-derivatives attribution in the license.
- You can share the design or distribute 3D printed items for free or non-commercially, but those models shouldn’t have any changes from the original.
You will need to credit the designer, licensor, or owner regardless of these restrictions, which is the standard requirement for all Creative Commons attributions except the Public Domain mark.
The CC BY-NC-SA license includes non-commercial and share-alike attributions. You can’t sell 3D-printed items from Thingiverse for models with this license. Any changes in such a design will also be non-commercial if you distribute or share them for free and open access.
You can sell 3D printed items from Thingiverse if a design is in the Public Domain or the CC BY license doesn’t include the NC attribution. You must give the designer or owner credit when selling a model with a CC BY license.
You cannot sell 3D-printed items of designs or models licensed as CC BY-ND if you make any changes to the originals. You can modify CC BY-SA licensed designs and sell those 3D-printed items, but you can’t change the commercial attribution to a non-commercial license.
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I started 3D printing since 2013 and have learned a lot since then. Because of this I want to share my knowledge of what I have learned in the past years with the community. Currently I own 2 Bambulab X1 Carbon, Prusa SL1S and a Prusa MK3S+. Hope you learn something from my blog after my years of experience in 3D printing.