Though similar questions have been asked before, I could not find one that answers this exact premise.

Say, there is a 3D printable file distributed under e.g. the CC BY-NC 4.0 license. This license has a non-commercial clause.

Another question (Does a 3D print of a CAD file constitute a derivative work?) already confirms that prints of 3D models are a derivative work of the file and thus still fall under the original license.

This would mean, one could not sell a print of a thus protected file.

But how does that relate to the First Sale Doctrine? (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First-sale_doctrine)

The First Sale Doctrine says, that the copyright owner's exclusive right to distribute a particular copy ends once they make it's first sale. So e.g. a copyright owner cannot stop a buyer of a book of theirs from reselling this particular copy of the book, while still retaining the right to stop the buyer from copying the book.

Now, one could argue that distributing the file and allowing others to make physical copies from that file would be similar to a first sale and thus allow the owner of the physical copy of the object to resell it.

If that's not the case, what else can the copyright owner restrict the license taker restrict from doing? Would it be possible to restrict the license taker to only print the file e.g. using a specific brand of filament? Can the copyright owner dictate terms of use for 3D printed objects derived from their file?

  • Is there actually a 3D print file in mind that you found licensed under CC-BY-NC or is this hypothetical? – Brandin Sep 19 '19 at 13:09
  • By the way I don't see how this question is significantly different from the one you linked to Does a 3D print of a CAD file constitute a derivative work? which is more of a legal question than open source. Basically any answer about this question will depend heavily on how that one is answered. – Brandin Sep 19 '19 at 13:12
  • I am not asking whether the print is a derivative work or not. I am asking if the First Sale Doctrine overrules the NC clause in the license. Same as a copyright owner of a book cannot stop someone who bought the book from selling it to someone else, I was wondering whether the copyright owner of a 3D print file can stop someone who legally printed that file from selling that print. This is purely hypothetical, I am not selling any prints. – Dakkaron Sep 20 '19 at 7:26

The First Sale doctrine only applies when a person lawfully acquires ownership of an authorized copy of a protected work, that is, a copy authorized by or on behalf of the copyright owner. But with most (almost all) computer programs and other digital content no one acquires ownership of a copy, as people do get ownership of, say a book, which is a physical copy of a work. Instead people get a license to use a copy, along with possession of a copy. So the First Sale doctrine does snot apply.

A CC-BY-NC 4.0 license already gives permission to reproduce and distribute copies of the work, but not on a commercial basis. Unless the ND clause is also included, it also grants permission to create and distribute derivative works (such as the printed object), again not on a commercial basis.

The First Sale doctrine would not authorize someone who got a printable file under a CC-BY-NC 4.0 license to print and sell the specified output object.

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  • The first sale doctrine only applies to things you own - a file that is licences to you you do not own and this defeats the doctrine. This is in fact why software is licences not sold. – Dale M Sep 19 '19 at 19:26
  • That makes a lot of sense, thank you! As a follow-up: does the NC clause prohibit the file from being printed at a commercial printing service? E.g. A wants the part printed but does not own a printer so they want to get it printed at a 3D print shop? – Dakkaron Sep 20 '19 at 7:29
  • Is this for the file itself or for the object that you printed using that file? – Brandin Sep 20 '19 at 8:19
  • @Dakkaron the NC clause forbids the person who is using the file from charging money. It does not forbid that person from paying money for assistance, so a file with an NC license can be taken to a commercial shop for printing, just not sold or rented. – David Siegel Sep 20 '19 at 11:53
  • @Brandin Both. You cna't change for the file itself, nor for the derivative work, which is the printed object. – David Siegel Sep 20 '19 at 11:54

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