From Forbes, 5/9/13
State Department Demands Takedown Of 3D-Printable Gun Files For Possible Export Control ViolationsOn Thursday, Defense Distributed founder Cody Wilson received a letter from the State Department Office of Defense Trade Controls Compliance demanding that he take down the online blueprints for the 3D-printable “Liberator” handgun that his group released Monday, along with nine other 3D-printable firearms components hosted on the group’s website Defcad.org. The government says it wants to review the files for compliance with arms export control laws known as the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, or ITAR. By uploading the weapons files to the Internet and allowing them to be downloaded abroad, the letter implies Wilson’s high-tech gun group may have violated those export controls.
“Until the Department provides Defense Distributed with final [commodity jurisdiction] determinations, Defense Distributed should treat the above technical data as ITAR-controlled,” reads the letter, referring to a list of ten CAD files hosted on Defcad that include the 3D-printable gun, silencers, sights and other pieces. “This means that all data should be removed from public acces immediately. Defense Distributed should review the remainder of the data made public on its website to determine whether any other data may be similarly controlled and proceed according to ITAR requirements.”
Wilson, a law student at the University of Texas in Austin, says that Defense Distributed will in fact take down its files until the State Department has completed its review. “We have to comply,” he says. “All such data should be removed from public access, the letter says. That might be an impossible standard. But we’ll do our part to remove it from our servers.”
As Wilson hints, that doesn’t mean the government has successfully censored the 3D-printable gun. While Defense Distributed says it will take down the gun’s printable file from Defcad.org, its downloads–100,000 in just the first two days the file was online–were actually being served by Mega, the New Zealand-based storage service created by ex-hacker entrepreneur Kim Dotcom, an outspoken U.S. government critic. It’s not clear whether the file will be taken off Mega’s servers, where it may remain available for download. The blueprint for the gun and other Defense Distributed firearm components have also been uploaded several times to the Pirate Bay, the censorship-resistant filesharing site.
Wilson argues that he’s also legally protected. He says Defense Distributed is excluded from the ITAR regulations under an exemption for non-profit public domain releases of technical files designed to create a safe harbor for research and other public interest activities. That exemption, he says, would require Defense Distributed’s files to be stored in a library or sold in a bookstore. Wilson argues that Internet access at a library should qualify under ITAR’s statutes, and says that Defcad’s files have also been made available for sale in an Austin, Texas bookstore that he declined to name in order to protect the bookstore’s owner from scrutiny.
Wilson compares his new legal troubles to the widely-followed case in the mid-1990s of Philip Zimmermann, the inventor of the cryptographic software PGP, who was threatened with indictment under ITAR for putting his military-grade encryption software online. “It’s PGP all over again,” says Wilson.
Wilson revealed a nice sense of history when he labelled his 3-D-printable gun the "Liberator". The original Liberator was probably the world's cheapest and flimsiest professionally manufactured gun, produced by the millions in the last year of World War Two -- and dropped by the millions over occupied France. The Liberator wasn't intended -- or designed -- to be fired more than a dozen times apiece; the idea was to use it to shoot a German, and then take his (much better) gun. Yes, the Libertor pistol played a significant part in the liberation of France. It's anyone's guess just whom Wilson intended his gun to liberate people from.
He's quite correct, though, when he says that the genie is definitely out of the bottle. In the two days that the file for printing the Liberator was available on the Internet, it was downloaded more than 100,000 times. Likewise, as he mentions, there are other sites outside the US that have the files are are gleefully posting them. Knowing what mavericks computer-nerds tend to be about Internet censorship, I daresay that plenty of them have downloaded the files, passed them on, and started 3-D printing the guns just for the hell of it.
The only limitation here is the availability of adequate 3-D printers, the material (high-impact plastic) to make them out of, and ammunition. (Of course, files for 3-D printing ammunition are available on the Internet too.) Now it's anyone's guess how many 3-D printers are already out there in private hands. I saw one making cute little sculptures at LunaCon just a couple months ago, I've heard that the simplest machines are on the market for $500 and top-of-the-line industrial printers can be bought for $8000. The materials have been available everywhere for years. There is no way that the government -- any government -- can stop the underground manufacture of Liberators -- by the millions. So forget the legendary "Saturday Night Special", zip-gun and underground arms-dealer; the Liberator can outnumber all of them.
This is the death-knell of all hope for gun control.
The only solution to the gun-crime and gun-violence that the Schumers and Feinsteins cry about will be to adopt just the opposite tactic: the Swiss System. The lessons of history show that when all Americans are as well armed and trained as the Swiss, we'll have an internal crime-rate as low as Switzerland's. Gun control will be as dead as Prohibition, thankfully.
And we'll have the 3-D printer to thank for it.
--Leslie <;)))>< Fish