Thingiverse has dropped a number of 3D models from its repository, according to multiple reports.
The sweep appears to have been triggered by a DMCA request from Wargaming Group Ltd, owners of the popular online strategy game World of Tanks. Evidently the company was concerned that 3D models from or derived from World of Tanks were being provided through Thingiveres without proper licenses.
A statement from one of the Thingiverse tank designers, Zachary Kavulich (a.k.a. TigerAce1945) says:
“As some of you may already know, yesterday Wargaming World Limited (the makers of World of Tanks) ran through Thingiverse and DMCA’d a large portion of the tank and military equipment models on the site. Unfortunately both I and Bergman lost a huge portion of our models in the sweep. Fortunately we still possess the files, however it is unlikely that we will be able to reverse these DMCA’s and restore the packs there. While I can’t entirely speak for Bergman, I am convinced that Thingiverse is no longer a site that I wish to associate with and I’m currently exploring other options for hosting my designs.”
“I warn anyone who has designs on Thingiverse to check to insure <sic> if they are still intact.”
Mr. Kavulich is not happy. And more than likely the many users of these 3D models are also unhappy.
We cannot know what is truly going on here, but one possibility is that Wargaming Group Ltd. may suspect that the perpetrators could have somehow “ripped” the content from the games and quickly reproduced it. However, after reading through several discussions, it appears that the designers simply created the models themselves.
At first glance one might think that the actions of Wargaming Group Ltd. may have overstepped their scope, as one would think that 75-year-old military designs would be free to use at this point. Apparently it depends on the specific licensing of the design from the original manufacturer, and how these pieces were licensed to the government purchasing them.
It’s impossible to know, but in some cases it may be that Wargaming Group Ltd. obtained proper licensing from the owning authority for use in their games. Thus they apparently wish to protect their license from infringement through this takedown.
Again, this seems strange, since you would expect the original owner of the design to be the one enforcing the law, but instead it could be a third party (Wargaming Group Ltd.) who may have licensed the designs for use in a domain that is not 3D printing or 3D modeling.
Or did they?
Maybe their license DOES include 3D modeling?
Or perhaps they are taking the “shotgun approach” and blasting DMCAs at anything that might slightly, possibly, appear to be ripped content, even it is not.
Thingiverse, meanwhile, is caught in the middle. They have received legal requests to delete content and have followed through. I would expect them to do so, because their owner, Stratasys, is a rich company that likely does not want to become a target for a huge infringement case, especially over some 3D models they can easily delete.
The moral of the story here is that Thingiverse, being perhaps the largest repository of user-contributed 3D printable content around, is now, and has been for some time, on the radar of content owners. In the past Thingiverse has deleted content in a similar fashion, but perhaps not as dramatically.
As I’ve browsed Thingiverse I often bump into items that I suspect are infringing on designs, but have yet to be taken down, as Thingiverse apparently has not yet received a DMCA request for them. It’s easy to find all manner of Marvel universe or Star Wars, Star Trek, and other obviously infringing 3D models on the site. It may be only a matter of time before the owners become aware of this or change their mind and request takedowns.