Arts / Technology

Why 3D-printing giant MakerBot is super mad at this Philly startup

“We see such violations as a direct attack on the very goal of Thingiverse and the Creative Commons (CC) framework,” MakerBot said of the actions of a Philly company called Just 3D Print.

An array of 3D-printed objects. (Photo by Flickr user westonhighschool library, used under a Creative Commons license)

Louise Driggers was not pleased when she found out that an eBay shop was selling, among other things, a 3D-printed dragon based off her design — a design she had posted on Thingiverse, free for anyone to use, so long as they didn’t commercialize it.
So Driggers, a Richmond, Texas-based artist who goes by Loubie on Thingiverse, posted a 3D-printed sad face on the platform to express her displeasure, TechCrunch reported. Then, the comments poured in. (Seven hundred and counting.) Blogs and news outlets caught on. MakerBot, which owns Thingiverse, posted a response yesterday.
“We firmly oppose this kind of use of our talented community’s creations,” the Brooklyn 3D-printing giant wrote. “To put it simply, we see such violations as a direct attack on the very goal of Thingiverse and the Creative Commons (CC) framework.”
MakerBot said its legal team would take action.
The company that’s caused all the uproar is Just 3D Print, a fledgling Philadelphia company founded by 22-year-old Wharton grad Ryan Simms. Simms, a Newtown Square native, told us he was a serial entrepreneur who previously built custom PCs for gamers and multimedia professionals and mined and sold Bitcoin, mostly to individuals in foreign countries.
Most of Just 3D Print’s items for sale are based off designs from open online databases like Thingiverse, he said. They’ve only sold a couple hundred dollars worth of items, said Simms, whose business partners are undergrads at Penn, Temple and Grove City College near Pittsburgh. He has plans to move into an office at 17th and Pine next month, he told us.
On the company’s website, he lists advisors such as Patrick FitzGerald, head of entrepreneurship and innovation at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and Penn professor Jeffrey Babin. Simms told us that they were advisors through the Wharton Venture Initiation Program and also advisors to the company directly, though Wharton spokesman Peter Winicov said this was not accurate and that they’re only advisors through the Wharton program. (FitzGerald, who’s also a Wharton professor, and Babin referred us to Winicov when we reached out.)
As for the situation at hand, Simms holds that the company has done nothing wrong.
If you’re interested in the legal nitty gritty, check out Simm’s lengthy defense on Thingiverse and then a post from Michael Weinberg, an attorney at Shapeways, who addressed (and largely refuted) each point Simms made.
The main point Simms made to us was that these designs on Thingiverse aren’t protected by a copyright. If they were, Simms said he’d be happy to take them down. But this isn’t correct, according to Philly-based intellectual property lawyer Frank Taney (aka @scarylawyer), who said that an author owns a common law copyright in all original, eligible work, though you do need to register your work at the U.S. copyright office in order to take legal action.
As for MakerBot, Simms emailed us this comment: “Makerbot/Stratasys has not been in any communication-they are grandstanding to protect their interests.”

Companies: MakerBot

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