Copyright FAQ

Below is a list of commonly asked artist copyright questions and answers. If you do not find the information you need below, please contact support.

I downloaded a free model from the internet. Can I sell it or distribute it for free?

No. Even if a model is available free of cost, it is still protected by copyright. You can’t sell it or give it away without permission from the rights holder.

I downloaded a model that was published anonymously on a website. Does copyright law apply if the model’s creator is unknown?

No. Even if I downloaded a model that was published anonymously on a website. Does copyright law apply if the model’s creator is unknown? Yes. The model is protected by copyright law, even if you don’t know who created it.

There was no copyright notice on the model or on the website where I found it. Does that mean no one owns the rights to it and that I can copy or distribute it?

No. Copyright applies automatically from the moment the work is created and exists in some form, such as in a digital file. Copyrights can be registered, but works are protected even if they are not registered. Marking (or not marking) something with a copyright notice does not change its level of protection at all.

I bought a 3D model (or got it from a friend or downloaded it free from a website), and I made a lot of changes and improvements to it. It looks really different now. Can I sell it or distribute it for free?

No. That’s called a “derivative work.” That means you took something that was protected by copyright and derived a new work from it (adapted it to make something new). But the copyrights still apply to the original work, even if your changes make the model unrecognizable.

What if I credit the creator of the original model? Do I still need permission to distribute my model?

Giving credit is a nice gesture, but it doesn’t affect copyright at all. To sell or give away your version of the model without permission from the rights holder of the original model is copyright infringement.

I got a model for free, and there was nothing that said it’s copyrighted. I changed it and improved it, so you can hardly tell it’s the same model. Can I sell my version of it?

No. No. No.

I heard that copyright doesn’t apply to anything that is on the internet. If it’s on the web, it’s in the public domain, right?

No. Copyright is not affected by whether the work is available on the internet.

Can I make models out of files that are distributed with 3D modeling programs like 3DS Max?

No. Those stock software models are also covered by copyright. They are licensed for personal use with the software, but not licensed for commercial use/re-sale.

It’s illegal to sell a copyrighted work without permission. Do I need permission to give it away for free? I am not making any money from it.

Yes, you need permission from the rights holder to distribute any copyrighted work, even if you are not charging for it. It’s against the law to give away protected work without permission.

I published a model of a unicorn with wings. A couple weeks later, this other artist also published a model of a unicorn with wings. Isn’t he infringing on my copyright?

No. The concept of a flying unicorn is not protected by copyright, so anyone is free to make his own painting, sculpture or 3D model of one. Now if you modeled a unique unicorn — a polka-dot unicorn with donkey ears and dreadlocks that flies around on a surfboard made of Swiss cheese — and then another artist publishes a model of a polka-dotted, dreadlocked, donkey-eared unicorn flying on a cheese surfboard … Well, you might have a case.

General ideas such as a showdown at high noon, wizards, princesses, dragons, thieves etc are not owned by anyone. Always check to make sure you are not assuming something is generic when it is actually “owned” by other parties – such as anything Star Wars, Star Trek, Tolkein, Martin, etc.

I saw a model on TurboSquid that I know was created by ArtistXYZ, but it’s being sold on the site by someone else. Does that mean the publisher stole the model?

That’s certainly a possibility, but not the only one. Copyrights can be sold or transferred, so maybe the creator sold his rights to distribute the model to someone who is now selling it on TurboSquid. But sometimes people sell models that they don’t have the rights to – and that’s copyright infringement. So if you see a model on the site that you think infringes on copyright, submit a Support ticket or click on the Report Abuse button on the product page of the model in question so we can investigate.

Someone is selling MY model on your site without permission. How can I get it taken down?

We follow the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 (DMCA), which gives specific guidelines about how to get your intellectual property taken down from a site if the person who published it there did not have your permission. According to the DMCA, you need to submit a takedown notice to the Designated Copyright Agent at TurboSquid. Here you will find the guidelines for submitting a takedown notice.

If I use just a small part of someone else’s model to make my own, can I sell it or distribute it without permission from the person who has the rights to the original model?

No. It doesn’t matter how much or how little of someone else’s work you use – it’s still copyright infringement if you do it without permission. Many people are confused about this point because under the concept of Fair Use, which allows the unauthorized use of certain copyrighted materials in certain ways, small parts of a copyrighted work can sometimes be used without permission. But the amount of material being used is only one of four factors that matter under the Fair Use doctrine. If your use doesn’t meet the other three requirements for Fair Use, then using just 1% of someone else’s model to make your own may be infringement.

I knew my model was being published without my permission, but I didn’t realize I could do anything about it. It’s been over a year now. Do I still have copyrights to that model, even though I haven’t defended them?

Yes. You have copyright in your work until you sell or transfer them or until they expire after many years. The fact that you have never defended those rights does not necessarily mean that you gave them up, and you can choose at any time to fight the unauthorized use of your copyrighted work.