Over the past week the 3DPrinting community has felt the emerging impact of what could be a full evolutionary shift, a divisive decision, or a simple misinterpretation of far from simple legal jargon…


The name ‘MakerBot’ is currently synonymous with 3DPrinter as much as ”RepRap.’ If neither of these names are of significance to the reader as yet, that would suggest that the reader is currently dipping their toe into the pleasantly warm waters of the world’s most hyped emerging technology – most hyped outside of a certain company who would doubtless craft an ‘iMaker’ or ‘iBot’ if it were swimming here too… As the iPhone 5 release was attracting attention on the level we are now accustomed,  MakerBot released the second version of their flagship Replicator 3DPrinter and the Twitter fraternity drown in a flood of #Replicator2 hashtags in due response.
What MakerBot also did was have to blog a response to a back lash of suggestions that they have stolen many tens of thousands of user created, opensource, 3DPrintable designs of ‘things’ (products) on their free hosting site This accompanied concern that their new design steps away from the revolutionary OpenSourcenature of home 3DPrinters that have evolved from RepRap designs back in 2008.These vital and very interesting issues have been emerging for some time now, pretty much as long as 3DPrinting has been attracting hype on a massive level.____________________________________________________________________

The timeline of apparent events:

  1. July 2010 – RepRap blog posting about the heated conveyor belt
  2. August 2011 – Makerbot Industries receives $10M venture capital funding. Applied for patent on heated conveyor belt.
  3. November 2011 – Makerbot Industries filed for a patent on a heated conveyor belt.
  4. February 2012 – New Terms Of Service on Thingiverse
  5. Thingiverse blog post about the TOS – only one commenter, “madscifi,” asked about the 3.2 attribution clause but wasn’t answered.
  6. July 2012 – Makerbot gets the patent. Their own design is highly flawed and no longer included in the next 2 generations
  7. September 2012 – Replicator II announced as a closed source design. 
  8. September 2012 – Blog posting about the Replicator II being closed source, later added TOS change by Josef Prusa (Twitter)
  9. Included “.thing” file format just a .zip of printable .stl and .obj files.
  10. “Occupy Thingiverse Test cube” posted on Thingiverse, more attention to TOS
  11. Josef Prusa Google+ posting
  12. Tony Buser (Makerbot Industries) posting on Google+ that the TOS didn’t chance in 8 month. 
  13. Thingiverse amke a blog post, clarifying that the TOS change was in February 
  14. Brainstorms appear regarding creating new alternatives to Thingiverse. (Thingiverse2Githubconverter, SKDB)
  15. More “occupy Thingiverse” objects popping up all the time.
  16. The story got slashdottet
  17. Blog posting by Makerbot Industries- They are “working out” just how open source they can make the Replicator II, lots about their intentions, no clear work about the specific TOS sentence. It looks like at least the software is just a thin, closed source UI that calls open source Skeinforge or their new (open source) “Miracle-Grue“.
  18. As a response the blog post by Josef Prusa gets updated. 
  19. Thingiverse replacement taking some shape in the comments of a G+ posting.
  20. Reaction of HoekenHackadayHacker News report on the issue, audience attention exponential – reports appear to suggest that the new closed-source software can be tricked into working with older MBI printer. 
The change in the Terms of Serice appears to be as followoing – previously they had a paragraph: “ does not claim ownership of the materials you post, upload, input or submit to the site.”The current TOS states a lot of granted rights but they are all limited to: “solely for the purposes of including your User Content in the Site and Services”.
What is interesting is the next sentence: “You agree to irrevocably waive (and cause to be  waived) any claims and assertions of moral rights or attribution with respect to your User Content.”
There appears to be no reference to this made in the february blog posting about the Terms Of Service. The recent blog posting reassures us that attribution is done, but still doesn’t explain why the user has to agree with this when uploading a design.Moral rights in the US are separate from copyright and thus not affected by Creative Commons – but why would one waive any but the “right to the integrity of the work”? A read of the definition over at Wikipedia tells us that the move could actually be a good thing, Thingiverse may be attempting to cover the backs of their users, and themselves, as much as possible:
“Moral rights are rights of creators of copyrighted works generally recognized in civil law jurisdictions and, to a lesser extent, in some common law jurisdictions. They include the right of attribution, the right to have a work published anonymously or pseudonymously, and the right to the integrity of the work.
The preserving of the integrity of the work bars the work from alteration, distortion, or mutilation. Anything else that may detract from the artist’s relationship with the work even after it leaves the artist’s possession or ownership may bring these moral rights into play.Moral rights are distinct from any economic rights tied to copyrights. Even if an artist has assigned his or her copyright rights to a work to a third party, he or she still maintains the moral rights to the work.”
The latest MBI blog posting states that they are working out “how open source” they can make the Replicator 2. What has currently not been clarified is the Thingiverse TOS sentence about waiving attribution…


Here is the response to this development by Zaxhary Smith, one of the Founders of MakerBot and a big name in the 3DPrinting sector:

My name is Zachary Smith, aka Hoeken.I have been building 3D printers since 2007 as part of the RepRap project. I created a non-profit foundation (the RRRF) dedicated to pushing open source 3D printing forward. In 2009, I invited my friends Adam Mayer and Bre Pettis to go into business with me building 3D printers.Thus, MakerBot Industries was born.Fast forward to April, 2012 when I was forced out of the very same company. As a result, I have zero transparency into the internal workings of the company that I founded. See this article by Chris Thompson for more infomation.I do not support any move that restricts the open nature of the MakerBot hardware, electronics, software, firmware, or other open projects. MakerBot was built on a foundation of open hardware projects such as RepRap and Arduino, as well as using many open software projects for development of our own software.

I have been withholding judgement until hearing official word regarding the open source nature of the latest MakerBot printer. I’m trying to contact people to find out what the real scoop is but so far nobody is talking, and my ex-partners are not returning phone calls or emails. It certainly doesn’t look good.

Not only would it be a loss of a large Open Hardware manufacturer, but it would also be a loss of a poster child for the movement. Many people have pointed at MakerBot and said “Yes, OSHW is viable as a business model, look at how successful MakerBot is.” If they close those doors, then it would give people who would say OSHW is not sustainable ammunition for their arguments. It would also discourage new OSHW companies from forming. That is a sad thing indeed.

For me, personally, I look at a move to closed source as the ultimate betrayal. When I was forced out, it was a normal, if unfortunate, clash of wills where one person must stay and one person must go.

I swallowed my ego and left, because I knew that the company I founded would carry my ideals further into the world.

Regardless of our differences, I had assumed that Bre would continue to follow the principles that we founded the company on, and the same principles that played a major part in the success of our company.

Moving from an open model to a closed model is contrary to everything that I stand for, and as a co-founder of MakerBot Industries, it makes me ashamed to have my name associated with it.

Bre Pettis, please prove me wrong by clarifying exactly what license MakerBot will be releasing the design files and software under.  That is all we (the community) wants.

In closing, I would like to point out the Open Source Hardware Definition




Open source hardware is hardware whose design is made publicly available so that anyone can study, modify, distribute, make, and sell the design or hardware based on that design.

The hardware’s source, the design from which it is made, is available in the preferred format for making modifications to it.

Ideally, open source hardware uses readily-available components and materials, standard processes, open infrastructure, unrestricted content, and open-source design tools to maximize the ability of individuals to make and use hardware.

Open source hardware gives people the freedom to control their technology while sharing knowledge and encouraging commerce through the open exchange of designs.’…



Is the MakerBot Replicator 2 Open Source?

‘We’re working that out and we are going to be as open as we possibly can while building a sustainable business. We are going to continue to respect licenses and continue to contribute to the open technology of 3D printing, some of which we initiated. We don’t want to abuse the goodwill and support of our community. We love what we do, we love sharing, and we love what our community creates. I believe strongly that businesses that share will be the winners of tomorrow and I don’t think that’s a secret. Even companies like Google and IBM are embracing open source and finding new ways to share these days.

I’m looking forward to having conversations with folks at the Open Hardware Summit to talk about how MakerBot can share as much as possible, support it’s 150 employees with jobs, make awesome hardware, and be sustainable. Will we have to experiment to make this happen? Yes, and it’s going to take a lot of collaboration, cooperation, and understanding.

I wish there were more examples of large, successful open hardware companies.

From a business perspective, we’ve been absurdly open, more open than any other business I know. There are no models or companies that I know of that have more than 150 employees that are more open. (Would love to be wrong, but I don’t think I am.) We are experimenting so that we can be as open as possible and still have a business at the end of the day.

Will we be successful? I hope so, but even if we are not, everyone will find out that either being as open as possible is a good thing for business or that nobody should do it, or something in between. I personally hope that we succeed, not just because I love what people make with MakerBots and I love the employees that make these machines but because I believe that MakerBot as a business can create a new model for businesses to learn from.

I don’t plan on letting the vulnerabilities of being open hardware destroy what we’ve created.’

Did Thingiverse terms of use change to “steal” people’s things.

Thingiverse does not steal.

We created Thingiverse to be the greatest place to share things using open licenses.

The terms, that we set up in February of this year, allow us to share your designs on our website and protect us from companies with lawyers.

Could we make that more user friendly? Yes, but lawyers cost money and making it simple for people to understand will cost many hours of lawyer time.

I’ve put it on our todo list for 2013 to make the terms easier to understand and avoid misunderstandings. If you’re concerned about this make sure to read the post that I wrote earlier this year about the terms of use on Thingiverse.’…



4 responses to “INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY: MakerBot > > >

  1. Spot on with this write-up, I really suppose this website wants rather more consideration. I’ll most likely be again to learn rather more, thanks for that info.

    • My pleasure Kim, we could see 3DPrinting continue an opensource path where millions of designs are free to download, or become increasingly closed-source as it becomes more commercialised? …I’ll keep this post updated.

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