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EFF Goes to Aid 3D Modelers


B-24In recent months, 3D model repositories such as TurboSquid have been served with DMCA takedown requests for 3D models of a variety of commercial and military vehicles based on trademark infringement for the vehicle names. This came to a head near the end of March when Lockheed Martin issued a takedown order for models of a B-24 bomber modeled by John MacNeill. TurboSquid complied, but now the Electronic Freedom Foundation has stepped up in MacNeill's defense, issuing an open letter to Lockheed's licensing agency in an effort to get his models back up.

From the EFF blog:

MacNeill's images are protected by the nominative fair use doctrine. Nominative fair use means, in a nutshell, that it is OK to use a mark to accurately identify a product if using the trademark is necessary to identify the products, services, or company you're talking about, and you don't use the mark to suggest the company endorses you.

Basically they are asserting that using the term "B-24" to identify his models is covered by fair use. However, since TurboSquid probably does not want expose itself to any legal entanglements related to the DMCA, the models were removed without question.

I know there are a number of Blender modelers who focus on commercial and military vehicles. What do you think about this situation? Do you use TurboSquid or sites like it to host your models? How do you plan on naming your models in light of this situation?


  1. This is stupid. I don't see Lucasfilm going ballistic over all the Star Wars X-Wing and Tie Fighter models on Turbosquid.

  2. HEY!!!! They have a human model that has the same number of limbs I do!!!
    liable! LIIIIAAABLLLEE!!!!!!!


    But seriously, this is a classic example of a company going to control it's brand. If turbo squid wasn't making money off it, then this would be a different story.

    The problem with this is trademarking, branding or other such product based identification. It might seem harsh, but to use the term B-24 is defining a product that looks and is intended to represent another product already on the market that someone else claims the rights to, is going to legally get a response from someone if done too many times.

    To make money off of that product, is to make money off the named product B-24. Even if this is a model and not a full plane, it is still profiting off the back of another product.

    It's harsh, I don't fully believe Turbo Squid were evil or were "Stealing" the brand, but unfortunately if they let Turbo Squid off then other companies, less moral then TS, would get the green light to exploit as much as they like.

    I think TS were very sensible to take the product off for now, and I wish them luck in their mini fight for this.

  3. By the way, if they had made a plane that they said was "Inspired by" the B-24, but not actually the B-24, then again this would be a different story.

  4. Lord of the Rings Junkie on

    @roofoo: Actually, a while ago they did have a Star Wars takedown and I had to remove my lightsaber model. (Even though it was free.)

  5. @Dusty: Lockheed invoked the DMCA to take the models down. But trademark owners are not protected under the DMCA. The DMCA is for copyright infringement only. No copyright was being infringed, Lockheed did not create those 3D models.

    If a photographer takes a photo of a B-52 and then sells it, is he infringing a trademark by labelling it as "B-52"? No, he is simply identifying the aircraft.

    This is just another example of overzealous lawyers trying to intimidate people.

  6. i don't care about Turbo Shit... now you can see how they flinch when a company like Lockheed invents new copyright ideas. As a result TS should remove any cars because they're called Audi and BMW...

  7. Not that I ever thought very highly of TurboSquid, but this is pathetic. There are better commercial model-repositories, for artists and customers alike.

    Also pathetic are Lockheed's lawyers who obviously have to much time on their hands.

    The US-American copyright system is broken and has been for years. I doubt this will change any time soon.

    My logical reaction as a modeler: rename the models and add a "inspired by" or "model of" in the description. This should keep the lawyers away for now.

  8. Makes me proud to be an EFF member (#256) and pleased that they are using the $$$$ I send them every year to protect freedoms that matter to me. Please consider joining the EFF and supporting them financially. The next person they may defend might be *you*.

  9. The aerospace industry has been doing this in the plastic model business for the past decade or so. They aren't really trying to protect their trademark since no one ever saw it as a threat for the forty years prior. But some bean-counter got it into his or her head that they could actually charge a licensing fee for these models and make a little more money on the side. The big plastic model companies saw this as a way to stifle competition, so they paid for exclusive licenses instead of complaining, and today more of the camel slips in under the tent after the nose.

  10. In the movie "The Bourne Supremacy", the makers were forced to create an entire fictional Russian mall with fictional Russian shelf items out of frear of trademark infrigement. This problem is not new and it is gobal.

  11. to the poster above me:
    tell me, what did you not understand when it came to the term B-24??!
    It's a type name and not a russian mall or something like that.
    The EFF is right, you can call it anyhow you want unless you don't want to make a new brand or product and just want to describe the type of image or model you have created.

  12. SiriusCreative on

    I personally think this is just ridiculous. What about traditional artists who have painted pictures of these various bombers and fighters? Plenty of paintings, pen&ink and pencil drawings have been done, and sold, of these aircraft. Has Lockheed gone after them?


  13. What a bunch of crap. Is the B-24 Lockheed's designation or the US government's? If it's the governments name then there should be no question as to the use of it, taxpayers funded them and should be able to use the designation in this manner.


    As far as I'm concerned, this is criminal activity acting under color of law. The next thing will be to go after likenesses under patent law, so "inspired by" will probably hold no weight.

    As an aside, we really need to reign in the government and these types of scumbags.

    Anyway, if I had the skill I'd totally be modeling any and every military aircraft I could, using the official government designations as the name DCMA be damned. I pay for the crap I can use the name if I want, otherwise no taxes from me.

  14. Just change the name of the file to "WWII Bomber." Then send an eMail off to Lockheed Martin and tell them to get bent.

  15. Hey! I never said I liked it! TS where trying to make money as do the rest of us, and to have a mega corp stamp their foot and everyone flinches is just damn annoying. They make enough money not to worry about the odd buck here and there TS might be making.

    But the truth is, you can't model sonic the hedgehog, make a game out of it and sell it! Nore could you just sell the model to anyone but the owners of the trademark rights, without their written permission.
    B-24 is a trademark, permission is still needed. TS broke that rule. Plane as.

    5_on_it summed it up nicely.

  16. Hey guys,
    I don't know what you are worry about!?
    Blender is OpenSource, so why don't the most of you give your models for free download???

  17. B-24 is not a trademark and Lockheed Martin should back off. The term B-24 was allocated to the aircraft by the US government as its designation for the plane, it is not a label chosen or invented by Lockheed Martin. Lockheed Martin consequently have no rights to the label or any of the others applied to their various aircraft over the years by the US government.

    If I were to paint a picture of a B-24 and label it "B-24 in flight" then nobody would come after me with any hope of success, and I could sell it to anybody I liked. The same rule applies to a B-24 3D model I built in Blender, if I had a decent lawyer I could successfully contest the case. The 3D model is a work of art just as much as a painting, and the same copyright laws apply to it. What Lockheed Martin are doing here is betting on the fact that their expensive legal team will be able to intimidate others into paying for the rights to make models of their products, and it should be vigorously opposed, preferably in court. The EFF aren't going far enough, frankly.

  18. @SpongeBob:
    This is a bigger issue than that. It comes down to freedom and control, and, while I don't think it's anything to get cussy and shouty about, it does need to be either addressed or clarified. I doubt the average artist knows the ins and outs of various fair use policies... I myself know next to nothing on the subject, and my brother, a traditional artist, is the same way.

    My two cents; selling or releasing a 3D model is not the same as selling an image incorporating that model. It's one thing to take a photo of a B-24... this can be equated to rendering an image of a B-24. If you want to sell the render, there's only so much that another party can do with that image, and only so much they can do legally. If, on the other hand, you release a model, anyone who buys that model can render from any angle, with any render settings. They can change things about the plane without removing the "B-24" texture, and, especially in the context of an animation, they can easily misrepresent the capabilities of the plane. I don't know whether that has anything to do with Lockheed's motivation, but releasing the model seems like a gray area to me.

    I do agree that John MacNeill should be allowed to render his own B-24 model any way he wants to, and do anything he wants to with those renders.

    @Fire Angel:
    You're definitely certain B-24 is a government designation? Because if so, I think you're right. Lockheed should only be able to take action if John is using Lockheed's name for the plane, even in the case of a model.

  19. Oh, and if I had the money I'd go after Lockheed Martin's registration of the term "B-24" as a trademark and get it overturned. It wouldn't be hard, their registration of it has no merit whatsoever, even under current US trademark laws which badly need reform.

  20. b-xxx just means it's a bomber. the 22 means it's the 22nd bomber type the us government has bought planes of. pure government stuff. it'd be the manufacturers' problem if they used names like "spitfire", but they're using the government-issued letter-number combos so it's out of their hands.

  21. The B-24 was produced by a company called Consolidated Aircraft, during world war II, a company that Lockheed Martin absorbed many years alter. The company named it the type 32 bomber during the design phase, as it was their 32nd design for a bomber aircraft. When the US Army Air Corps decided they wanted a single research and test version built, they designated it the XB-24, not Consolidated Aircraft. Later the next phase was to produce a pre-production prototype, which the Army Air Corps designated the YB-24. (X is used for research planes not necessarily intended for serial production, Y is used for aircraft that are pre-production development aircraft - B just means it's a bomber).

    Later when the decision to order bombers from Consolidated was taken, the Army Air Corps labelled the aircraft the B-24, then adopted the name the RAF name gave to it, the Liberator. No part of the name originated from the manufacturer, it was the Royal Air Force and the US Army Air Corps that gave the plane its name. Hence when Lockheed acquired Consolidated Aircraft the name was not among the trademark rights they acquired. Any good trademark and copyright lawyer could take down that B-24 trademark registration by Lockheed Martin, and if I had the money I'd set about it myself.

  22. Well, I guess the foolproof way of doing it is to ask the company in question for their permission before modelling their products.

    Copying is always restricting. It's fun though.

  23. Asking companies for permission to make 3D models of their products? Sorry to be so blunt, but that's dumb, plain dumb. All it does is set a precedent that allows them to continue to rip off artists, as they will always give permission if they get a percentage of the selling price - something they absolutely are not entitled to. I really wish somebody who is a lawyer with 3D as a hobby would take these greedy companies on, by putting some models up for sale with names like "F-35" and "BMW 735" and then waiting for them to try something. As I wrote before, if I could afford a good copyright and trademark lawyer I'd do something like that myself.

  24. According to US Law, all works of the Federal government that are not classified are in the public domain of the United States. If B-24 is a United States DoD designation for the plane, and not Lockheed Martin's original naming, then B-24 is a United States public domain name for the plane, and Lockheed has no claim to it whatsoever. In the US you cannot take something that is public domain and copyright/trademark it as your own.

    I hope that the EFF gets copies of the original Department of Defense papers that specify the naming of this plane and present them as public domain works of the US government. It seems to me that this case has nothing to do with "nominative fair use," but rather it has everything to do with who actually owns the original naming of the plane.

  25. it is really ridiculous, those companies need to get there heads out of there a**

    LOL if this is how it is going to be then lets do this, let us artists design as many different airplanes with our own names, and if any military/person tries to name there plane after the 3D model than we sue them and tell them they can't sell it! HAHAHA! of course this is not going to work, because this is a person vs government.

  26. So what if Lockheed Martin does have a B-24 trademark registered? Looking through the US Patent and Trademarks database I found a listing for Lockheed Martin. But it's for a Scale model aircraft. And was done in 2001 so it was rather recent. So small clarification is this about using the name of the aircraft or using the name of the scale model of the aircraft?

  27. Going legal for a plane like the B24?

    Wonder what will Boeing do about the B17 then...

    And watch out ! The Wright brothers kin might sue you for the Flyer !

    If I model a WWII Messerschmidt, will I have problems with EADS?

    Come on.

    Seems like some lawyers had nothing better to do that day.

  28. Under the B-24.....Bingo! Oh wait! What are all the lawyers doing? If I were them I wouldn't be taking that little old ladys cards away... But on a more somber note, Lockheed didn't make the model. They don't own it. It isn't theirs. It was made by someone else. Similarly, Lockheed doesn't own the letter B, nor do they own the number 24, nor do they own the combination, B-24. Every business I know of has something indexed alpanumerically, and B-24 is on a lot of labels. Does Lockheed own it all? If a photographer takes a picture of an airplane in flight, does the airline own the picture? If the photo is printed in a book or newspaper, does the airline /aircraft manufacturer own the book or newspaper? Lockheeds case is way past flimsy. They are overreaching a whole lot. Something that someone else made, that looks somewhat similar to something they have. With ideas like that, a crimminal can buy a toy car in a store, then go out and steal a real one and claim ownership, showing the reciept for the toy, then explaining how the two look similar. At some point you have to ask: just how many (real) people do you expect the 3D model can take into the air?

  29. I can't quite resist-- TurboSquid is spineless!

    It's a bit sad to see a company who has a mission statement that reads in part to “to provide unmatched value and support to our content creators” to roll over so easily when a spurious take down notice comes their way.

  30. blendercross on

    It seems that copyright,trademark and so on is today a good way to run in an trap ( also as artist ) .
    Copyright breaks and so on are daily buissenes and loss for the most companies worldwide
    so i think they have the right to protect there work.
    In this case i thing someone shot over the line. But it would be a great idea to generate some rules
    together with the industry:
    1. for the people like us who like to make a "virtual Copy" of something,
    under witch circumstances it is allowed and so on.....
    2. for companies ( like Lockheed ) to see not in any artist ( also hobbyartist ) an enemy
    mayby reduce there cost for lawyers....

  31. This is stupid! >:| Although I create original sci-fi/fantasy models, I still think that the US copyright system is seriously flawed and is in serious need of reform. I've had my YouTube account revoked because I had some videos that were 'infringing copyrights'. One was an unedited TV show intro, another was a music video, and another one was a home video with music playing in the background (and this happened way before I found out about EFF and I don't have the money to hire a lawyer). Why should I have to get permission or pay money for something that I don't even plan to sell? If I WERE planning to sell it, then I could understand getting permission or paying a royalty fee. But if a company demands money or even permission for simply displaying a copyrighted work with no profit in mind whatsoever, it is telling me that they are greedy and they are finding excuses for getting all the money they possibly can. I now license all my artwork under the Creative Commons license, so no one would run into that dilemma (and I wouldn't go after anyone unless they were trying to sell my work without my permission).

  32. Interesting. But I hardly see the value in going after someone whom creates a 3D model of something.

    What is next, people getting sued for having photos of B-24's ??

  33. This is amazing but not surprizing. When I was a Junior Highschool student, I had to do a painting of "mans effects on nature". I thought I would target big companies effects on the environment.

    Before I started, I called a certain cola company, the one with the red and white cans you know coca something... for permission to draw their logo for my school project. It would not go on sale,it would never see the light of day, it was for grading purposesonly. The officer I contacted told me, a 14 year old at the time, that they would have rights to sue me and retrieve any compansation should I have used their name, the white ribbon, the exact color red, or any other feature that would make them recognizable.

    So I just bagged them even more in my assignment. The amount of trash they create every year.

    This is definely a case of a big bully trying to steal other peoples money and why does it happen, because it is the American dream, that is now adopted worldwide, to protect these scums and their lawyers, and destroy the little guys.

    Hell, that being the case, why do people really even bother anymore.

  34. Basically I never Have this problem as I focus completly on original models, I have over the years heard of companies going after models for copyright reasons, and wanted to avoid the whole mess, I think I would be just as annoyed if someone was copying my models and selling them too, as in some cases has happened. Those companies paid engineers and designers to come up with their products, and it cost them money in the process, now someone else comes along and copies the final product and reaps the benifits of other peoples work. I dont have a problem with what the companies do, besides we are supposed to be artists, not copy machines, make original the end if it turns out will be more rewarding.

  35. I'll leave aside the issue of the DMCA being used to enforce trademark law instead of its intended purpose of copyright enforcement. Trademark exists to protect consumers against product fraud and confusion. Coca-cola for example is a trademark. No other softdrink producer can use it without permission because it would cause confusion in the market place.

    The chances someone will confuse a B-24 3D model with the real thing is nil. There is no confusion in the market place. Add to that the fact that B-24 is a designation assigned by the US Government and not a brand name, Lockheed would have a tough time defending their position.

  36. t TS are by no means saints nor altruists but put yourselves in their shoes. They are not such a huge company. In US reality they got no chance to win a trial with such a monster as Lockheed. It might take milions of $, years of time and effort and they would have no gain in it. So- what should they do when lawyers of such a corporation (be it Ford, Mercedes or any other brand that has been recently "banned" on their portal ) contact them ?

  37. submitted to digg.. go over there and make it hit the front page pls. For some reason I can't post the link.. go there and digg it up.

  38. Submitted to digg. Go and digg it. This is not something that should remain like it is. I support EFF !

  39. I think all the people who talk about the word B22 are not taking the right angle at this problem.

    Somebody has copied a shape and a shape that is not his to copy, thus infringing copyrights.

    Yes starwars models have been taken down for just this fact.

    Why did this guy copy this shape? Thats where his defends should focus on.
    If its to create news articles or history articles then its freedom of speech. (deeply attackt by the DMCA as this example proofs)
    If its because he thinks this shape would sell better on TS then his own design airplane then its clearly copyright infringement; go design your own plane.

  40. Censuring the Internet is soooo 2002
    Internet is allergic to censor and has a backwards response to censor so keep doing it and your sure to know that your models are being downloaded.

  41. @Alexander - How do you verify that your work is "original" is that not up to the viewer of your work and whoever can file a patent/trademark/copyright before you?

    We are all influenced by what we see, hear, touch, etc.. so I'm sure if you look hard enough you will find others who came up with a similar "original" work or even gave their fantasy picture/render/model the same title you give yours, does that mean you are a criminal? No, it just means that people think alike are are influenced by the same material.

    Seriously, does someone own the rights dragons or all mythical creatures or derivatives of said mythical creaturs? (well maybe if you are Wizards of the Coast...)

    While I understand that to intellectual property has value and certain brands/trademarks should not me mis-represented, but does that mean that if I want to create a 3D model of my office at work I can give it away because it has a phone that looks like a Nortel phone or a LCD monitor that has ViewSonic on it? This seems ridiculous. Now if I was selling an LCD monitor with the ViewSonic name on it which was in reality a cheap knock off then I could see a problem.

    With the B-24 model, I don't really see a problem, unless of course someone who purchased that model and the model was detailed enough that that person could manufacture his own B-24 knock off and sell it, then I would see a problem. Not with the model but with the knock made from it. I guess you can really argue this all day long, but in the end it seems you have to have a mega-buck company behind you if you want to make anything.

  42. I seem to remember that the b-24 was designed and built by Consolidated. Would that throw any monkey wrenches into Lockheed's plumbing? I wold hope so. The darned airplane was built 60 years ago! I believe there is only one flying example left. I think Lockheed is being a bit small-minded on this issue.

  43. In 1981, Mattel Eletronics released a game for their Intellivision console called B-17 Bomber.
    Did Mattel infriged any copyright or trademark laws by releasing a game with that name?

    I agree with most people here, its a simple case of lawyers with to much free time.

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