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There are many gray areas in using 3D models online that may be free, creative commons with specific terms, or public domain. I notice many 3D models being sold by artists that are exact replicas of known vehicles (eg. BMW,Honda,etc.(with emblem)). I would think in this situation there will be some sort of infringement especially if someone bought that model and used it in their video game, no matter if it was marked as royalty free. I would appreciate if someone with experience could assist in clarifying some of the following areas. Please note, this is the information I have inferred based of personal research, may not be factual, please correct me if I am wrong.

Commercial Use: Of course never sell someone's 3D model, but what part of that is considered theirs; if they made a model of an RC car, are the wheels legal to use, the chassis, engine especially if the creative textures(or meshes) are removed and all that is the mere form of the object. (Eg. if I 3D model a nail/screw; that is not considered copyright protected because it is a 'common'/'useful' object)

Free Usage: If your product is free, my assumption is that game devs could use a 3D model as long as they change textures, colors, etc. But form of the object is all for grabs.

Commercial Use & Free Use: If the product/game you are using is free, but you have advertisements bringing you revenue that may be on the side of a website or phone app and pop up every now and again; does this make it acceptable?

Thank you ahead of time!

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Why would a 3D model of a screw not be copyright protected? The screw itself isn't but it's not apparent why the model wouldn't be. If you wrote a paragraph of prose about the screw that would also be copyright protected. (Standard IANAL disclaimer) \$\endgroup\$ – user253751 Feb 2 '18 at 0:16
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You'd generally want a lawyer to advise you on any specific situation that seems convoluted to you. That said, in general:

When you purchase or otherwise acquire a piece of art (e.g., you download it from a "free art" website), that transaction will come with a license agreement. Many of those sorts of websites put the agreement up once, somewhere on their website, so you might need to dig to find it.

The license agreement will say what your rights are with respect to the piece of art. Do not do anything that you are not licensed to do with it. If you have any doubts, such as for example if the license grants you use of the art, but the art contains trademarked designs or logos et cetera that the license does not explicitly provide usage rights to you for, you will probably want to stay away from the art. You can contact the author and request clarification, or engage the services of a lawyer who could help you unravel the complexity of the appropriate IP law, but generally you are better off staying away from anything that could be somebody else's intellectual property that you are not explicitly granted permission for in the license agreement.

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