You’re totally right that it is at least in a gray area of morality and licensing. But I think you may have misinterpreted what he said (or I did).
What I heard him say is that they downloaded the publicly available models, and are storing them privately (presumably, along with their correct licenses). The reason they chose to do that was to allow users (after some kind of authentication) to convert their models and publish to printables.
So, from my understanding:
- They only downloaded data that was publicly available through the api/http interface of Thingiverse.
- They are not editing, or republishing the files on printables.
- They believe this will have a benefit to users (and themselves no doubt) if Thingiverse just crashes or gets shut down.
- They will not republish any of the files on printables unless the users decides to, and authenticates somehow. (You have to trust them on that.)
Printables has had an import from TV feature for a long time. I used it and imported everything over. Nothing got published publicly until I reviewed and republished it. It was honestly pretty slick.
I have had a ton of performance issues with TV in the past. It is just sometimes down, or work is lost, etc. I would not be surprised if the idea of this came about because the prusa site was also having trouble grabbing data “on demand” when customers asked to import TV models. A good hack (from a technical perspective) is to just have a computer work overnight to copy every file in TV and then have printables query the backup instead of the main TV site.
It would have been better if they could have gotten users to approve that backup. But that’s not practical.
There are many sites, like Pinterest (don’t get me started) that apply “fair use” pretty liberally and get away with a lot of regurgitation of truly copyrighted internet content. So my non-expert opinion is that even things with restricted licenses can be copied that way, legally.
Most of the files on TV are creative Commons of some kind too. So many of them are already explicitly saying they can be reused, edited, and many can be used commercially. The only ones that they might be violating are the ones that are non-commercial, but I go back to the Pinterest argument.
As for my personal feelings about my models. I am a bit glad they are doing it. Because TV is so unusable and irrational. I don’t make good backups and it is convenient for me to have a way to recover something if I lost it.
But I think everyone should play by the same rules. I don’t want some Pinterest like site to aggregate my work. And prusa may be polite, fun, and doing Good. But that is a luxury for profitable companies. When they can’t pay their bills anymore, we want the rules to keep them in line.
So I would rather none of it be allowed. But also, that is just how the rules currently work (in my non-expert opinion).