General Information

Based on user feedback, and to maximize library growth and usage, the NIH 3D Print Exchange offers a variety of licensing options. We seek to create an open, collaborative environment and to allow for effective use of the data. We welcome comments on these policies. Please contact us with your feedback.

Public Domain

Material in the public domain may be copied, modified, and distributed, even for commercial purposes, without permission or attribution. 3D prints originating from digital 3D models in the public domain may also be distributed or modified for commercial purposes without restriction. Works produced by the U.S. federal government and through U.S. federal government funding are not subject to copyright and reside in the public domain.

Creative Commons Licenses

If the work is not subject to public domain and the author wishes to maintain a copyright and receive attribution, they may apply a Creative Commons license. There are six Creative Commons licenses, each with different restrictions on how the work can be used, modified, and distributed. While the files themselves have licenses pertaining to distribution and modification (e.g., adding colors or highlighting residues on a digital rendering), it is also necessary to specify how the physical prints that originate from the source file are used. Creative Commons licenses retain copyright, but on various levels allow others to copy, distribute, and make some uses of the work. The most basic Creative Commons Attribution license (CC BY) is least restrictive, and allows virtually any use, distribution, or modification of the work, including for commercial purposes, as long as the owner is credited. Click here to visit the Creative Commons homepage.


The GNU General Public License is a free, "copyleft" license for software and other kinds of works. As the most widely used "copyleft" software license, it was designed to allow end users freedom to use, study, share (copy), and modify software. Derivatives of GNU GPL-licensed material can only be distributed under the same terms. Read the Quick Guide to GPLv3.


Open Source Licenses

The Open Source Initiative is a global non-profit that supports and promotes the open source movement. Their site contains extensive information on open source licenses and other useful resources on copyright, trademarks, and logos, and best practices in applying open source licenses and using open source content.