Friday, May 10, 2013

U.S. government orders website to remove 3D printed gun design

The "war" over 3D-printed firearms has begun. On Thursday, Defense Distributed founder Cody Wilson received a letter from the U.S. government -- specifically, the State Department Office of Defense Trade Controls Compliance -- ordering him to take down the online blueprints for the 3D-printable “Liberator” handgun that DefDist released on Monday.

In addition to the "Liberator" blueprints, he was order to removed nine other 3D-printable firearms components that were hosted on the DefDist’s website

However, the U.S. government probably -- or honestly definitely -- made the move too late. The CAD files for the gun has already been downloaded 100,000 times, it was reported Friday.

As is typically the case, what is posted to the Internet, stays on the Internet. The CAD files will remain on isolated sites or even BitTorrent, despite any moves the State Department makes. There is no doubt of that.

The government did not use the Undetectable Firearms Act of 1988 (UFA), which says all guns must be able to be detected by metal detectors, as "ammunition" for its demand. Instead, it said that it wants to review the files for compliance with the arms export control laws known as ITAR, or the International Traffic in Arms Regulations.

ITAR regulations, according to Wikipedia:
[...] dictate that information and material pertaining to defense and military related technologies (for items listed on the U.S. Munitions List) may only be shared with U.S. Persons unless authorization from the Department of State is received or a special exemption is used.
The State Department's letter reads, in part:
Until the Department provides Defense Distributed with final [commodity jurisdiction] determinations, Defense Distributed should treat the above technical data (a reference to a list of ten CAD files hosted on Defense Distributed's site that include the Liberator, silencers, sights and other compents) as ITAR-controlled.

This means that all data should be removed from public access 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.
Although DefDist's design includes metal pieces which meet the provisions of the UFA, it is clearly the case that anyone downloading the files could easily modify the design to remove those components.

In addition, the UFA is up for renewal in December. It is expected that there will be a tough fight over the law, which was last renewed in 2003.

Wilson is a law student at the University of Texas in Austin. He said,
We have to comply. 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.
Wilson's reference to an "impossible standard" refers to the fact, noted above, that once unleashed on the Internet, nothing disappears completely.

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