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I downloaded a freely available .stl file that is a fan-made model of a space ship from a well-known sci-fi universe. The fan posted the file under a Creative Commons - Attribution - Non-Commercial license. I edited it significantly (by reshaping, deforming, resizing, adding details, etc.) and put it onto a stand I created. I 3D printed the resulting model and use it as a piece in a board game.

Two of my friends saw it: one wants to buy a printed copy from me and the other wants to buy a copy of the .stl file so that he can print it himself. Am I allowed to sell either of those things to my friends? One of my friends is telling me that since I've altered the work by more than 30%, it's mine and I can sell it.

If I do the same thing with a 3D file that has only a Creative Commons - Attribution or Creative Commons - Attribution - Share Alike license, could I then sell it?

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The license won't let you sell the .stl file. Probably you have created a derivative work, which means you can't sell it without a copyright license (and the CC-A-NC won't do).

If it were licensed under CC-A you could sell it without problems (you'd have to give attribution, of course). You could also sell it under the CC-A-SA, but once you do you have no control over the result -- anyone you sold it to could give it to someone else under the terms of the license. This could work, though, if it were (say) a commission and you only expected to sell one copy.

I don't know what the situation would be with the physical objects printed under any of these licenses.

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  • Ok, thank you for your answer. So no matter how much creative work I put in to the model, (even if I were to make it completely different in the end) if I've started with something else that has the Non Commercial license then whatever results from my work must stay Non Commercial? Jan 3, 2023 at 6:46
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    @benjamin Correct, unless you get some other license for the material.
    – Charles
    Jan 3, 2023 at 8:13
  • do note that the original file also was an unlicensed derivative work, though possibly deemed somewhat acceptable by the show owner.
    – Trish
    Jan 15, 2023 at 14:39
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    @Trish In that case it's a derivative work of the NC .stl file as well as the original sci-fi universe, making it even more toxic.
    – Charles
    Jan 17, 2023 at 3:13
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Double No

You did a No!

Let's start simple: How did you obtain the file? Under a license that explicitly banned you from using the file in any way in a commercial capacity. You can't free the file or its products from this license but by acquiring it with a commercial allowed license. So this is one No on sale of STL or print.

The STL might be a No too

However, there's also another fat no: the file is a facsimile of a depiction of an item in a show. The copyright in that look is with the show's makers. The very STL downloaded could be copyright infringement in the first place or covered under a permissive "fan license". Usually such fan-tribute is not acted upon by showrunners, as such items draw fans, but exceptions exist.

If your derivate of the show's derivate is sold, that can not just give rise for a breach of license how you acquired the STL, but also copyright infringement from the copyright holder - which is very expensive. Show and File-maker might even join forces for maximum punishment!

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  • Ah, sounds like it’s a must to steer clear of any selling whatsoever…. Even if I got permission from the original STL maker, it’s still copied from someone else. Jan 18, 2023 at 4:36

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