Onshape Tightens Licensing For Free Users
It seems that Onshape is making things more challenging for free users of its 3D CAD service.
Onshape launched with great fanfare a couple of years ago as it was the first practical “real” 3D CAD service that could operate successfully from a browser. In fact, it was so capable that it could even be successfully used on a tablet - you could design complex 3D parts with only your finger!
Even better, it meant you were independent of a machine, so your work became entirely portable, accessible from virtually any machine that operated a browser, even your mobile phone.
When launched Onshape provided a very generous free plan in order to attract new users. The plan was essentially the full version, but with a restricted number of projects. For many new users this was a terrific way to enter the difficult world of 3D CAD, and offered an easy path to learning a complex tool. Onshape no doubt hoped some portion of these trial users would eventually convert into full paying customers.
However, the company later changed the rules on their free plan. Instead of simply limiting the number of projects, they changed these projects from private to public, thus anyone could access these now-public designs, if they happened to have the right URL to find them. Meanwhile, Onshape continued to offer a fully free plan for educational users.
Now it appears they are tightening up the rules even more. If you signed on to Onshape in the past while you would see a new Terms of Service agreement. Deep inside this agreement is some interesting language that apparently took affect on 7 August:
(i) Onshape permits you to publish your Content (in the case of End Users, subject to any privacy settings selected by Customer), including in the form of a document designated for public sharing or otherwise published to the public (“Public Document”), and allows you to participate in public community forums through postings.
If you choose to publish a Public Document or post in the forums, other End Users (and in some cases the general public) will be able to view, copy and transfer or save any such content, inside or outside Onshape’s service. Any such content, once published and/or posted, is non-confidential.
For any new Public Document owned by a Free user created on or after August 7, 2018, or any Public Document created prior to that date without a LICENSE tab, Customer grants a worldwide, royalty-free and non-exclusive license to any End User or third party accessing the Public Document to use the intellectual property contained in Customer’s Public Document without restriction, including without limitation the rights to use, copy, modify, merge, publish, distribute, sublicense, and/or sell copies of the Document, and to permit persons to whom the Document is made available to do the same.
For any Public Document created prior to August 7, 2018 or any Public Document owned by any Onshape user except Free users created on any date which contained a tab called LICENSE reserving greater rights than the foregoing, those greater reserved rights will continue to apply to any proposed third party use of such Public Document.
Onshape shall have no liability for any damages resulting from the use or misuse by any third party of Customer’s published Public Document or your postings. IF YOU CHOOSE TO MAKE A DOCUMENT OR FORUM POSTING AVAILABLE TO THE PUBLIC IN THESE WAYS OR OTHERWISE IN CONNECTION WITH YOUR USE OF ONSHAPE’S SERVICE, YOU DO SO AT YOUR OWN RISK.
This seems to say that if you’re using the free plan, not only are your designs made public, but they are also by default and requirement fully open sourced with no rights options for you. Previously you could declare some rights on the designs.
For some free users this will no doubt be a showstopper change and cause them to abandon Onshape as an option.
I suspect that Onshape saw an insufficient number of conversions to paid plans from their free offering and thus have put the screws to it, again. Since they are maintaining their free educational plan they may be seeing good levels of conversion there, although taking that out would put them at a definite disadvantage among other 3D CAD products.
Where will disaffected Onshape users go? I strongly believe they will end up using Autodesk Fusion 360, which continues to offer a robust free plan that provides for not only educational markets but also startup companies whose revenue is less than USD$100K per year. As we said the other week, we believe Autodesk is winning the free CAD war.
I think this is a short-sighted move by Onshape, as CAD systems are so complex and expensive most people tend to learn (and thus stick with) only one. It is therefore absolutely critical for CAD companies to get their products in the hands of users early and easily. Easily in this case can mean “free”. That’s exactly what Autodesk is doing and Onshape seems to be retreating from.