Not So “Generic” Post

by Matt Wisdom

I’ve been asked my opinion on one of our competitors going “Generic”. My first thought was that it was an interesting choice of words on their part.

TurboSquid is an ardent supporter of fair use of 3D models, and that will not change. We will continue refining our handling of cases, how we label items, and so on. I personally engage with each case and concern about items sold on TurboSquid. Some gray area does indeed exist, and it is a personal mission of mine to do my best to make that as black and white as possible. That will help everyone: artists, manufacturers, and TurboSquid.

It takes thought, engagement, and respect towards people who are worried about TurboSquid’s intent and our artists’ intent. Fair use is ethical. Our artists are ethical. Our customers are ethical.

I’ve been insulted by lawyers many times, but when they figure out that we are a professional company, that our artists are professionals, and our customers are professionals (who include a huge number of news outlets), the conversation changes.

Bottom line: these folks become reasonable when they understand we respect their intellectual property. You would be surprised about which things people care about. It is *not* obvious. That’s why I want to participate in discussions and work with them. I purposefully do not invite TurboSquid’s lawyers. The reality is that the internet has run ahead of current legal frameworks that originated from the notion of copying books hundreds of years ago. That said, legislatures do not want to make stupid legislation that harms progress. Courts don’t want to make historically bad decisions when the nature of intellectual property itself is changing.

That leaves rational people to the process of solving this as a business problem, not a legal problem.

TurboSquid has worked a lot with big companies in strategic capacities. We have had many people try to acquire TurboSquid. Instead, we chose to keep our independence. Solving the problem of managing fair use is exactly the kind of problem we can tackle. But a big company that has a legal department, and that doesn’t care about visual 3D, just doesn’t need the headache.

If you are an artist with your content taken down from another site, let’s avoid the spin — content that was taken down is obviously not selling now. This is a loss to you, not a new opportunity.  We created SquidGuild Bridge last year at the request of people who wanted to participate in CheckMate and higher royalty rates. If it makes sense for you, we’re happy to have you join.

Remember, as an artist, you are responsible to make sure that you publish content for which you own or have the rights to publish — all of those rights. Artists warrant to us that they have these rights, and we tried to make this clearer in our publisher recently, and our license revisions. If you don’t own the rights from a manufacturer, for example, to generally sell a 3D model, then you must list it as editorial use only. TurboSquid does not protect you from your own infringement. Some artists selling on their own sites have been tracked down and contacted directly by big companies, and those artists acted as they saw fit. On our site, TurboSquid does a very good job keeping the peace and talking sense into all parties when there is conflict.

On a personal note, I know we (and I) pissed off a lot of artists when we started the SquidGuild and changed our royalty rates in 2009. It was hard to be criticized, but I understood why and knew that a meaningful number of artists felt like we broke their trust. The competitor I mentioned earlier took this to a level that was really out-of-bounds, with outlandish accusations about what we were doing and future conspiracies about what would happen and how we would keep changing royalty rates and all kinds of things.

The only thing that we could do (that we were willing to do) was to stay the course with our original intent and over time earn back trust from those artists. The royalty rates stayed the same, we have invested in trying to create great content, and we have many more opportunities on the horizon. We have not abandoned our core business, and believe that the future of the industry is not in a race to the bottom on pricing, and it is not in printable 3D. At least, not for people who love making incredibly photoreal models.

The future is in taking the work we love, working in the apps we love, and reaching a much, much broader audience. TurboSquid has made a huge number of investments to make this happen, and they will roll out when they are ready. 3D is hard to do well, but it will have its day, and it will be big.

~ Matt

11 Responses to “Not So “Generic” Post”

  1. Loving This says:

    Hi Matt!

    As someone who once worked for that “competitor” I absolutely love that you are, as always, in the forefront of this business. A guy and his mom can call themselves innovators, but I think the leader in this field is pretty clear. Always happy to see you guys staying classy and not generic. :)

  2. TurboSquid Member says:

    Over the years Turbosquid have proved to be the most reliable and constant company in the 3d models industry, I’m happy with the desition on movig to Turbosquid Guild on time, so far so good. Thanks TurboSquid for the hard work. So much has been said and the results are obvious.

  3. Denys says:

    “The reality is that the internet has run ahead of current legal frameworks that originated from the notion of copying books hundreds of years ago.”

    (Words of wisdom)

    ” Instead, we chose to keep our independence. Solving the problem of managing fair use is exactly the kind of problem we can tackle. But a big company that has a legal department, and that doesn’t care about visual 3D, just doesn’t need the headache.”

    (Even sometimes I feel TS website development and bug-fixing going very slow ;) I like the fact that it’s business model, behavior and interactions with artist and costumers make TS a feel of “small” independent company.
    Like I can write now “Hi Matt, what’s up!”, and I’m sure it will read me… hope this last for long)

    “the future of the industry is not in a race to the bottom on pricing, and it is not in printable 3D.”

    (Good to hear that from you. I don’t identify with the hype people are giving to 3D printing, it will have great uses, industrially and scientific, specially in the future, but main consumer of 3D digital content will always be the digital world. Companies are just now trying to create a “need” on people to buy 3D printing and 3D printing services )

  4. 3Dopmaat says:

    All nice and all, but the conclusion I arrive to is this:
    TS knows that about 90% of the content is copyright infringing.

    And although Matt ‘puts up a screen’: ‘Just list the objects as ‘for editorial use only’.
    That really won’t hold up, in court, I’d think.
    A news-company is (ALL) about making money and is just plain: a commercial entity.
    And it does not make any difference for the 3D artist: He/ She is trying to sell an ‘illegal object’.
    And it really does not address the main issue: Changing the license will not change anything for the 3D artist, just for the end-user.

    I cannot see how you (TS), as a company would not be a ‘criminal party’ in this?
    You provide us with the means to do so and waver any responsibility in managing the content?
    Ever worse: You explicitly decide not to care/ act.

    And its really just about pushing off responsibility (to the artist).
    While you, as TS is making money of of these (illegally) uploaded models, too.
    Better reserve some of the (exorbitant) percentage you charge, for future law suites …. ?

    I don’t know … but something feels wrong here …..

  5. Matt Wisdom says:

    @3Dopmaat, we can agree to disagree on this one. Copyright is different from Trademark, neither of which is 90% infringing on TurboSquid. I don’t want to quibble over the terms, but there is much more subtlety to what those mean and how they are applied than I can really get into here.

    Using the term “illegal object” assumes a lot. Can I take a picture of a product and sell it? Why do you feel not? What is the damage to the product manufacturer? At the end of the day, the imagery of the product is not in fact competing with a product — it is an image and not a phone, for example — and arguably helps the product in the marketplace get visibility. The most likely customers are people that are in the product’s ecosystem and need to promote or increase the visibility of that product, and removing that friction has a net positive impact.

    The artists’ responsibility to TurboSquid is the same as it has ever been for over 13 years — this was not changed. We have never been sued over trademark, copyright, etc. We continue to try to educate people about this and build tools, but it would be impossible for us to handle right management perfectly. When an artist in a country around the world publishes something from their country, for example, where are the trademarks protected? There is no central clearinghouse of that information. Is a Slovakian trademark protected in Mexico? Hard to say.

    Artists need to know and declare what they have the rights to, and customers also must understand these rights as well. A 3D artist could just as well make a box of cereal from a real box as buy one on TurboSquid. All we are debating is the efficiency of the process. The money will be spent in either pay or as a license. Customers manage those rights as well. TurboSquid is a clearinghouse of the copyrights from the artists to the customers.

    A news agency is of course a business. But there are notions of the public interest, fair use, and other principles that apply. TurboSquid respects other people’s intellectual property, and I don’t have the slightest question that we make the world a more efficient place and create opportunity for artists that wouldn’t have existed otherwise.

  6. 3dopmaat says:

    Matt,

    First of all: Let me make it clear that I’m ‘just another’ 3D artist, and not free of (supposed) copyright (or trademark) infringement.
    Just trying to get a clear picture on where I/ we stand in this matter.

    The overall tendency of you post is from the artist’s perspective, which is nice, but maybe it would be wiser to take the role of the devils’ advocate?
    Because, I think, ‘times are a-Changin’?
    And that’s the main reason why we are debating this issue, right?

    Take for example 3D printing: One is not allowed (in any case) to reproduce anything copyrighted or covered by trademark.
    And the same could apply to making pictures or providing anyone with the means (= 3D object) to do so.
    Let’s not even talk about blowing things up, etc. : Not really something any manufacturer would be too happy with? And certainly NOT to be defined as a promotional action.

    Some pieces I’m not sure what you mean to say:

    “Artists need to know and declare what they have the rights to, and customers also must understand these rights as well. A 3D artist could just as well make a box of cereal from a real box as buy one on TurboSquid. All we are debating is the efficiency of the process. The money will be spent in either pay or as a license. Customers manage those rights as well. TurboSquid is a clearinghouse of the copyrights from the artists to the customers.”

    A 3D artist will (almost) never have the explicit permission to make a 3d model from some product/ designer just for personal gains?
    In short: they don’t have any rights to give away.

    What do you mean with being a clearinghouse?
    Does that mean anything in a courtroom?
    What I derive from this piece is: that in the end it’s the artists responsibility to upload-or-not on the bases of permissions they’re supposed to have?
    And that every 3D artist is supposed to personally make deals with companies to avoid this pitfall?
    Because really, the level at which we perform our actions has nothing to do with the copyright/ trademark holder. And thus, I think, we could all be held responsible (for our actions).

    And despite the fact that we have not encountered any problems yet, it would be a bit too comfortable, to my taste, to just lean back and not to think about this (possible) issue.

    And I believe there are stories/ cases of companies (smaller than yours) that have been forced to take products/ themselves down?
    Don’t know any specific cases, but that’s what I’ve been told.

    And if this is true, isn’t this matter more urgent to address than anyone wants us to believe?

  7. Erik Klok says:

    And by the way: ‘How soon do we forget?’

    Remember the Olympic Games 4 years ago?

    A knitting-club(!) (I believe non-commercial) was knitting sweaters with the Olympic rings on the chest.

    They where forced to take this ‘product’ down and stop this trademark-infringing activity!

    I believe to remember that even the word (Winter) Games is protected?

    So much for the ‘all is fine’ sleepy-mode where in ….

  8. Denys says:

    Hi 3dopmaat,
    The thing is that we are not making a physical reproduction of the object, this is something relative new and different, and if a company doesn’t care if we make a digital representation of their product, then TS don’t want to limit us before the complain or take down notice.

    Matt W. correct me if i’m wrong, but I don’t hear about any TS artist taken to the court in these many years (12?) of TS market.

    One of the most copyright protective companies on earth is Apple, and TS is full of Apple product 3D models, and seems they don’t care about that. What Matt W. is proposing and defending is to educate companies and legal institution to these new ways of digital markets, not to limit us before finding flexible options.

    About responsibility: From my point of view, I see the responsibility of using a 3D representation of copyrighted product more from the buyer than from the 3D artist. Analyze this example:
    Certain X company is a legal provider of Samsung products, and they want to advertise a promotion of some Samsung phone, so X company publicity department find and buy here on TurboSquid the same model 3D representation and saving some budget they make the advertisement campaign using this 3D model made by some unknown artist. So what is the difference between this and hiring a 3D artist to make the model by demand? Where is the crime?
    The responsibility should relay on that X company and how it will use this 3D representation of physical product.

    Of course I dont have access to the real numbers, but That example above is not far from reality, it happens a lot and that’s why TS is saturated of mobile products. An this process is fair enough to keep existing, not to blindly eliminate it.

    Let’s artist and buyers take the responsibility of their acts, and TS allow artist to be as free as possible :)

    By the way… I don’t sell any phones…
    well… wait… yes I have one: http://www.turbosquid.com/3d-models/nokia-6280-cellphone-3d-model/451816

    Denys

  9. Matt Wisdom says:

    This is important stuff. We are making significant investments to understand what is in our library, and to make that clear to everyone. If you are following what happened at our competitor’s site, the fragility of a tag/keyword based approach is obvious. Massive amounts of mislabeled content and tons of other assets were accidentally taken down. What percentage of the 35,000 or so models removed erroneously is unclear.

    Developing guidelines for truly generic content is much more complex than what’s been put out by our competitor so far. We have spent time developing and testing our own guidelines. We will release them when they are ready. Now what you see on our competitor’s site is the worst of all worlds — people removing only obvious things from a model that will get it flagged.

    Instead of products labeled for what they are, that information will now be obscured. That site risks becoming a minefield with “generic” content. They aren’t enacting a thought out process with artists, customers, and manufacturers in mind, it is one to satisfy a legal department that does not seem to care about the business itself. The spin they are putting out is disingenuous, and bad for everyone.

    Strictly speaking, using a cropped image for a screen grab from a movie as your avatar on a web forum is usually an unauthorized use. All owners of intellectual property have different opinions on what is allowable. We deal with them as they come and appreciate their opinions.

    I don’t think the times are changing for visual artists. I think the complaints we get are in proportion to our sales. If anything, I think companies understand fair use progressively more so each day. If anything, times are changing for the better for visual artists on this topic.

    Our license is highly restrictive when it comes to printing 3D models. Counterfeiting goods is a whole topic unto itself, and perhaps that’s what you mean by times are changing. And as we all understand, that although the quality of 3D printing is now low, later it could compete with real products. A printable object that would relieve a customer from buying from a manufacturer would indeed be harmful to the manufacturer. This is a very very different case from where TurboSquid lives.

    I promise you that we won’t lean back, and that we have not been.

  10. Erik says:

    “All owners of intellectual property have different opinions on what is allowable. We deal with them as they come and appreciate their opinions.

    I don’t think the times are changing for visual artists. I think the complaints we get are in proportion to our sales. If anything, I think companies understand fair use progressively more so each day. If anything, times are changing for the better for visual artists on this topic. ”

    << I sincerely hope so too ….

    One more (from Matt's initial first post):
    "Remember, as an artist, you are responsible to make sure that you publish content for which you own or have the rights to publish — all of those rights. Artists warrant to us that they have these rights, and we tried to make this clearer in our publisher recently, and our license revisions. If you don’t own the rights from a manufacturer, for example, to generally sell a 3D model, then you must list it as editorial use only. "

    << Does anyone do that, really? I didn't/ don't. I probably will do from now on. We'll see from there and am curious whether that would impact sales numbers. And from there it's indeed the customers choice to do or not to do 'the right thing'

    And paying special mind to the first sentence: I would not be surprised if only 1% (if any at all?) has explicit permission from a manufacturer to do so.
    At the first call you make you will probably be directed (just to be save) to the standard agreements/ rules, which probably state that any use is prohibited …. is my guess.

    Well … we'll see how this develops.
    I totally agree, by the way, that creating generic content is well … not the way to go …..
    And indeed making little changes here and there to avoid being rejected is CERTAINLY NOT the way to go …. and I, for one, will not be doing that.
    I'd rather let my models be removed than making fakers ….

  11. Erik says:

    By the way, what do we think of (actions like) this?
    http://www.shapeways.com/model/364717/1a5bb536cacb80d38bffa0efe23dd2bf

    Walking the line or treading it?

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