Surely 3d content made available to the public (Especially for free) that the creator cant put lawful restrictions that state you cant make any ‘artwork render’ with that content in it public! A render is an ‘Image’ not distributing or selling the actual product.
In a way, both sides are ‘correct’ on this.
And both are wrong.
By making an item available, whether there is a charge or not, the creator of that item gets to decide what rights are transferred to the person acquiring it. Generally, that means usage rights. Sometimes, but not very often it includes distribution rights. Legally, there really isn’t a ‘restricted usage’, except when it deals with trademarked items. So a ‘generic’ widget made by someone shouldn’t be able to be restricted to ‘non-commercial’ end use (finished render), because there isn’t clearly defined legal precedent for doing so. You can either use it or you can’t. There’s not really any distinctions as to what you can use it for, though. And yes, it is a lot like that can of paint…you can do most anything with it, but you can’t sell what you’ve painted isn’t very likely to stand up in court. And there isn’t likely to be any real test case for this, because most free content creators don’t have the resources to take it to court (not entirely true…because there have been cases where publishers have taken artists to court that took and cut up books/magazines; usually those type of cases end in favor of the ‘artisit’). But when it comes to trademarked items, the rules are different, very confusing, often not uniform and subject to things like the US’s ‘Fair Use’ clauses, and in this area, there are plenty of court cases…more often than not, ending in favor of the trademark holder.
Now, of course, the ‘legal’ consideration as to whether or not there really is a ‘restricted use’, it becomes a moot point when you actually use the item…you become bound by the license terms, regardless of whether or not they really exist. Which, when it comes down to it, is what is usually found in the readme or EULA or content creator’s website (if spelled out) not what some category on a distribution website says.*
Basically, there should be four clearly defined categories…
1. Public domain. The creator basically gives up all rights to the item and no longer has a say in what happens to it. Under this, the creator, cuts all ties to the item and anyone can do anything with it.
2. Limited distribution. This can be something along the lines of the Creative Commons license. Allows for redistribution and/or modifications, as long as the method of distribution is the same as the original content (in this case free and under the same terms) AND proper credit/attribution to the original creator. This would allow modifications, derivatives, format conversions and so on.
3. Usage rights only. The downloader is allowed to use the item as they see fit, but can’t redistribute it. This means all uses…including sales of the final render/contest entries/use in a game, as long as the original mesh/textures can’t be extracted. (similar to most purchased content)
4. “Fan item”. An item that is a fan art/fan made item of a trademarked franchise, like Star Trek items. Basically, needs to adhere to the terms that other fan related items particular to that franchise are used. This would also include celebrity morphs. Basically it means, in most cases, you can’t make any money/benefit other than reputation from the using the item.\
*All of the above is my opinion, based on quite a bit of research, not any legal advice.
Now this next part is probably going to upset a few people…
A lot of the problem comes from some misguided/mistaken belief that because you, as a content creator, are making an item available for ‘free’ means that nobody else should be able to make any money from it. Well, in reality, when an ‘artist’ uses the item to make a render (picture/painting/etc) they aren’t, technically, making money off of you. They are making money off of their work, composition skill, interpretation of an idea, etc. It was your choice to ‘give it a way’ as opposed to offer it for sale. It was your skill that made the item and your choice to not charge for it. Live with it. Don’t make it confusing for the rest of us. As a ‘user’ and a creator, I try to make it clear with my items…any use, except redistribution for profit (yes, I’ve actually put some of my stuff under CC, so it can be redistributed under the CC terms). I’m rather flattered when someone uses something I made to make some money.