The END of scale modeling?

The END of scale modeling?

Just had an interesting, if not enlightening, discussion with an aftermarket

component supplier to the R/C marketplace. We were talking about how so many

of the products today are flat out foreign copies of previously American developed

and produced commodities. I expressed my belief that I thought the practice was

wrong but domestic manufacturers were virtually powerless to stop it because of

International copyright law. He went on to say, “What’s the big deal; everything is

a copy of something else or someone else’s work! All of your scale designs are

“copies” of the full scale design, right down to the designation and name.” I found

it hard to believe that someone could really think that was the case since, at least

structurally, there is very little similarity, let alone copying, of a model to it’s

full scale counterpart. Since I have frequently used nothing more than a large

collection of pictures (and my engineering background) to develop many of my

designs, I couldn’t see how that could be remotely considered “copying”. Maybe

I’m wrong but I’d sure like to hear other views. Could this be the end of scale

modeling as we know it because a full scale aerospace company might take issue

with the design of a modeler because, on the exterior at least, the model resembled

their full scale product? I have heard (via the Internet) that Lockheed, specifically,

has taken issue with modelers but I choose to think it’s really one of those rumors

that gets amplified and “stretched” as it is passed along. How about weighing in with

your views?


Updated: June 21, 2012 — 11:02 AM


  1. Dear Sir;
    Just read your article reguarding scale models. The plastic side deals with this issue almost constantly, to produce a plastic model of anything now days there are all sorts of legal issues. Also if it is not licensed a company can be in real trouble. Also the “cottage industry(s)” they have to agreements also, if I am not mistaken. The r/c, free flight, portion of the hobby has had a degree of ease in this matter. Thankfully, a large portion of planes that we might build are not true scale but there are those that are. This is a very big topic, and as long we give credit were its due, then I sure the big corps will hopefully work with us in any future issues.
    Harry L Keel Jr

  2. UP (Union Pacific) did this to the model train industry until Mike Wolf from MTH stepped in and got them to drop the lawsuit.

  3. Well, I know of at least one digital flight sim company that no longer used the F-104 because Lockheed had issues.

    And, perhaps comparing apples to oranges, I know several model railroad companies now have to pay royalties to real railroads to produce models with the real railroad’s name or logo.

    For years car makers have required toy producers, such as Hot Wheels, pay a licensing fee to produce miniatures of a given car. Read the fine print on the back of any toy (models that replicate a real car) car package.

    So, I guess if they are having a bad day, or see a way to make an easy buck, or just want to maintain control over the use of their name and designs, aircraft manufactures could start requiring model makers to get approval and/or pay a licensing fee to make a model of a real aircraft. It will add a buck or two to the price of a model, but I doubt it will be the end of scale modeling.

  4. There sure are a lot of Copy Cats in the RC industry for sure. But to say an RC airplane designer, builder, plans developer is nothing more than a copy cat of the full-size plane is just stupid. I don’t see too many WW2 warbirds made of balsa and plywood! It seems like a tough nut to crack but one that will (or already has) affected people’s indeas of what is a fair price for a fair product. Buyer beware, you get what you pay for.

    1. Hey Gerry, I can name one… the DeHavilland Mosquito. However, Unless the outline is patented, I don’t see where there’s a leg to stand on. Our model designs are nothing like the full scale. Heck, most of the time we use a different airfoil, enlarged surface areas and as you said, materials not typically used in full scale construction. Also, our models are not directly competing with their production so where’s the actual issue here. I mean, when was the last time Lockheed actually produced a P-38 Lightning? (1944?) Sounds like some slick lawyer thought he found an easy way to get additional money from an unlikely source through licensing and then they all jumped on the band wagon. In fact, I think it was originally an idea that Cessna started. You know the old joke right? What’s a 100 dead lawyers …. A good start.

  5. Yes, its true. MRC and other plastic model companies are paying royalties to the real warplane manufacturers. WE paid for the R&D to build them in the 1st place. Maybe Boeing And the rest need to pay us royalties for their designs.

  6. I have discussed with manufacturers the creation of new designs that are not scale or even close to anything else in the air. First thing they want even in China is a copyright. Good thing Orville and Wilbur did not patent flight.

  7. The full-scale manufacturers should be paying royalties to modelers. After all, aren’t they getting free advertizing for their products? I don’t buy clothing with a company’s logo on it for precisely this reason.

  8. The way I understand copyright law is that it doesn’t matter if an item looks the same as long as no operational, construction or technical systems are the same. If we could copy the systems in full sized airplanes then they would not be models any more. It sounds to me like the Aircraft companies are looking to screw some more money out of the modelling community, do I hear corporate greed.

  9. It is really short sighted for full scale manufacturers to claim copyright infringement when a model of their aircraft is produced.

    The most obvious conclusion is that a model actually “advertises” their name brand and should be encouraged rather than trying to ban them.

    That’s what you get when you have engineers running the show. No creativity in forethought!

  10. I don’t know why some of the companies are thinking in do this and some others don’t they publish information that we can use in order to build a model (Pilatus), if we still getting more issues in USA this hobby will end and the only way to get something will be from China!, remember that we have many designers and companies that they did well?, please help this hobby in USA we need it.

  11. I agree wih all of the above. Most of our American R/C Model manufactururs have gone by the wayside. Many were bought up by the big conglomerates (Tower/Great PLanes) because they wanted to produce a model like the smaller company was producing, and couldn’t get the rights. them up,,, put them out of business, and eliminate the competition. Today we have China. How many of the products that we buy for our models are actually produced in the USA? Very few, and if we looked closely, I would bet many of the products our American companies sell are actually produced in China. It is a shame. Try to buy an actual kit anymore. It’s tough. I am a builder, I enjoy it, and hope to continue until I cannot, but the kit market is drying up. I may be forced to start scratch building. All those ribs!!! (shudder)

  12. David says, “Good thong Orville and Wilbur did not patent flight.” But they spent years trying to do just that! It came down to a battle over ailerons, which is why early Curtiss designs had them between the wings. The Wrights eventually lost in court, and they had spent so much energy on their lawsuit that they fell far behind in their designs.

  13. Well guys you are right and I think some time ago Piper aircraft Co. started it wanting roality and now all we have are ARF which are great to the extent that they are built. But just try and repair one with out the knowledge of prior build experence. The price of these are going up and some of the models are made cheaper. If you have old catalogs just go back and look. The up side is every one is getting what they aske for in spades, and China is getting richer..

  14. Yes, I thought the true kit market was drying up, but then I see a lot of new plans+laser-cut-part semi-kits coming up from the cottage industry, and repli-kits of radio control classics. Some of these are not semi-kits. With direct production of laser parts from plans, particulalry cad-cam plans, I can see an actual GROWTH in kits because the numbers of each design can be small and there are many many plans becoming more and more available, cost is reasonable as long as you dont expect ARF value

    Perhaps what is dying up, due to high cost and low market, is the beatifully designed kit where the box, contents, design, plan are all there as an art form in itself! But thankfully we still have Guillows

    Also good is that folk are selling up kits that they wont be building due to ARF’s and electric. So we are OK for a while. (dont worry about “old” balsa, its a hardwood dry balsa is OK in 95% cases, planes I have build from old kits are fine – just check for some poor balsa and plastics as for any kit)

    But I have seen some full commercial kits appearing, at $20 even laser cut and with cowls etc…. from China

    Things are channging, but gradually moving forward even so, as long as the layers do not spoil it all !

  15. Your ‘aftermarket component supplier’ is using an excuse for HIS copywork. There is no relationship between an RC model and its full scale counterpart, other than appearance, and even that is reduced by a huge factor in size.
    The Chinese steal and copy products from all over the world at the behest of their government. Where do the fake Rolexes, the fake Guccis, the fake Ping and Callaway golf clubs all come from? Soon there willl be fake Buicks.
    The communists in China are used to raping the international copyright laws and using “slave” labor at .25c – .35c per hour. (That’s not a typo; typical factory workers in China make around $2 per day.)

  16. Well, if you heard it on the internet, it must be true…

  17. My models are only scale if the real airplanes are held together by Gorilla Glue and tape.

  18. As far as worrying about foreign companies copying today’s scale models, I am very impressed with the approach taken by Alien Aircraft which produces incredibly good laser cut balsa kits! It would be harder to copy these products and make a profit; at least I think so. Keep up the good work Alien Aircraft!

  19. Individuals building “one off” models don’t have much to worry about. (IMO) Not deep enough pockets. So scratchbuilt scale models will be with us as long as RC is still permitted by our gubmint. Commercial applications? Well, now you’re trading on copyrights of BIG corporations. Personally, I think it’s foolish to penalize the free advertising, but corporate bean counters no doubt think differently. Expect to be paying royalties…

  20. While I can’t name them off hand, I think I have seen adds that noted their ARF was licensed by an identified real plane manufacturer.

  21. It’s pointless complaining about the Chinese copying our products and selling them cheap. We are the purchasers of their products and keep them in business, while American and Australian manufacturers can’t compete.This is why there are fewer and fewer jobs in manufacturing, but eventually the Chinese will have to sell their stuff to countries where people have jobs. Well, Iv’e had my rant!

  22. first of all let me state, that you are a modeling guru…i grew up reading ducted fan models(your version), as well as model airplane news, and rc modeler magazines. as a past avid rc scratch builder, and crash test flyer, LOL. I can tell you that your article is right on the money. i guess if your not making a profit off of someone else’s designs, shouldn’t be an issue. As far as modeling is concerned, it’s a dying art. We were lucky enough to experience it in it’s purest form, pre-pc. Personal computing, and political correctness. I am personally caught up in today’s fast paced world, but I’m looking forward to the day when everything slows down enough to actually enjoy modeling and flying again. thank you for the years of inspiration, reference, and reflection. God bless.

  23. Your actual prints are copyrighted. You would have a tough time, however, getting a design patent of any kind on any kind of model airplane unless it was tremendously unique.

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