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Public document usage limits - unfuzzy me

dapugdapug Member Posts: 17 ✭✭
The ultimate question:
Can open/public documents be used in commercial products?

Notice that I am addressing the documents, not the plan - and I think there is an important distinction. 

My Scenario
If I have an open source project where my community (hobbyists and the like) creates publicly available documents, BUT those assets are NOT intended to be limited use (any person, or company should be able to use them as they see fit, noncommercial or commercial).

Is this allowed on documents created using the free plan???

The confusion stems from the fact that the free plan is what is typically used to create public documents. Here is my attempt to break it down and understand Onshapes expectations...

Terms: Private/Public, Commercial/Noncommercial:

In the terms it seems clear, the free plan is not for commercial use:

But then in various places on the site, you find things like there where is says "If you are using Onshape for commercial purposes, we recommend using Private Documents".  

Recommend? Or Require?

Furthermore, here is a post that claims the free plan can be used for commercial purposes, the only trade-off being that your documents are not private.

"...free plan users can use Onshape commercially" ... "Right, you pay for privacy".

Example of open source:
A software project that uses an open-source document in their commercial product is allowed, provided they follow the OSS licensing terms associated with that document (not the tool that made the document**).

Likewise with hardware:  What if I use all or part of a public document to develop my commercial hardware?  I mean, heck, there are all sorts of screws, hinges, fitzer valves and so forth out there that might have been created with the FREE plan of Onshape.  Am I prohibited from using those, and must re-create them myself in Standard or Pro?

Or, more extreme, what if I mill or 3D print a part that was fully created by someone for free and in the "public domain" and, as long as I followed the terms of the author and their OSS license, I sell that part?

Open Source
Referring again to the official commentary by Onshape in their blog:

"The point of using a Public Document is to build projects that you would not mind other Onshape users viewing or copying. For creating Public Documents, the Onshape Free Plan is great for hobbyists, makers and open-source designers to build models with a professional-grade 3D CAD system at no cost"

Note: Open Source by definition CANNOT prevent commercial use, otherwise it ceases to be open source, regardless of whether said source (document) is publicly visible and accessible. See the OSI FAQ: "All Open Source software can be used for commercial purpose; the Open Source Definition guarantees this".

At NO point in any open source license that I have seen, has the issue of **"what tool did you use to create the document?" even be a factor, at all, ever. The tool does not dictate the usage of the document.  As I see it, Onshape free plan is the tool, and the document itself is public/open.  With this in mind, it seems that limiting commercial use of Onshape public documents would be wrong, out of step.  But hiring a team of paid workers to create those public documents using the free plan would be wrong, violating the sensible intent of the free plan.

Am I on track here?  I'd love to hear from some authoritative source from Onshape about this. Look at my scenario, and clarify the question of public document use.


  • Options
    mahirmahir Member, Developers Posts: 1,296 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited August 2019
    I'm not a lawyer, but as I understand it the Free plan can be used for whatever you want as long as you're ok with it being searchable and accessible to anyone. So if it's something you plan on patenting, maybe not the greatest idea to put it into the public domain. But if the intention is to create a truly open source design, then go for it. If anything I'd think Onshape would appreciate the exposure. Even if there is a possibility you make money from the design (commercial) you're still adding to the public domain and increasing Onshape's visibility. 
  • Options
    max_tepermeistermax_tepermeister Member Posts: 1 EDU
    edited October 2019
    This is someone I would love to see a clarification from someone at Onshape on, especially since I agree that there is conflicting messaging.

    1: It says here that
    The changes concerning the intended uses of our Free Plan and the document ownership surrounding the Free Plan were changed to disambiguate something that has been unclear for a very long time – our stance on what we’ve always intended the Free Plan to be used for (non-commercial use) - noa

    2: In here, admittedly before the TOS change, multiple people are also under the impression that the free plan can be used for things you make money off of, as long as the designs themselves are public.

    This second understanding of the free plan appears to be confirmed by something later in the TOS:

    For any new Public Document owned by a Free user created on or after August 7, 2018, or any Public Document created prior to that date without a LICENSE tab, Customer grants a worldwide, royalty-free and non-exclusive license to any End User or third party accessing the Public Document to use the intellectual property contained in Customer’s Public Document without restriction, including without limitation the rights to use, copy, modify, merge, publish, distribute, sublicense, and/or sell copies of the Document, and to permit persons to whom the Document is made available to do the same.

    How can 1 and 2 both be true?

    This implies to my non-lawyer ears that anyone is able to do what they want with the content in my public document, including sell copies of that content or derivatives of it.

    Is the distinction here between the content created in Onshape, and the use of Onshape itself? Is the TOS saying that I can sell the actual document data in my public documents, but that I may not make money off of using Onshape? Is this the correct understanding and does this distinction make any sense.

    Taking a step back, my understanding of Onshape's thought process is:
    We're giving away this awesome CAD tool for free to do your own things with, but please pay us if you want to make money off of something made with our tool.
    This is a respectable sentiment. I'm just not sure how it interacts with the idea of Open-Source (which usually allows anyone to sell copies) , Public domain, and Non-commercial-ness.

    Could someone from Onshape (@noa ?) please clarify both the current intent, as well as the consequences of the language in the TOS?

    1. Is anyone allowed to make money off of the content of Public documents (As implied by one part of the TOS)
    2. If 1 is true, what does it mean for the free plan to be "Non-Commercial"
    3. If 1 is false, what does it mean for Onshape to be used for an Open Source project?
    I understand that answers to these questions won't be legally binding, and for the best understanding I should hire a lawyer to parse the TOS as written, but I'm mainly trying to make a personal decision as to whether Onshape is a tool I can continue to use, and whether I should keep recommending it to others for certain types of use (That may not be allowed).


    EDIT: Also more description of the non-commercial nature of the free license here: https://forum.onshape.com/discussion/11290/doubts-regarding-onshape-standard#latest

  • Options
    christian_pettychristian_petty Member Posts: 68 PRO
    I’d be curious to hear from Onshape on this. I’m planning to release several designs under the CERN Open Hardware License v2 (strict) and would like to know if I should make it a public document or just share a link to a private one on a paid plan. 
    Christian Petty - Mechanical Design Engineer, Radian R&D
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