It has only been a couple of days since the Liberator 3D-printed gun was successfully fired in Texas by Defense Distributed. But after the gun was downloaded over 100,000 times in just two days, the State Department told founder Cody Wilson to take down the blueprints from the company’s servers immediately. The sheer number of downloads is not what is causing concern for the federal government – they are concerned as to who is doing the downloading. The web-based plans are subject to the International Traffic in Arms Regulations that do not allow the “export [of] any defense article or technical data for which a license or written approval is required without first obtaining the required authorization from the DDTC (Directorate of Defense Trade Controls).”
While many of the downloads have hailed from the US, others from Brazil, the UK, Spain, and Germany have helped to run Defense Distributed afoul of international law. Legally counting as exports, Wilson was instructed in a letter from the US State Department to wipe the files from public access ASAP. This may prove to be difficult, as most of the downloads were served via MEGA, making a clean removal nearly impossible. The plans that were already downloaded are also in the hands of thousands of users, and free to be disseminated through alternative channels.
For his part, Wilson still remains hopeful that his project will continue to ignite debate over the freedom of open-access software for 3D printing technology and legislation. “Is this a workable regulatory regime? Can there be defense trade control in the era of the internet and 3D printing?” he asks. Meanwhile, lawmakers such as California senator Leland Yee and New York congressmen Chuck Schumer and Steve Israel have vowed to introduce bills that outlaw the manufacture of weapons such as the Liberator. Welcome to the next political shoot-out between the government, gun enthusiasts, and tech aficionados.
Images via Defense Distributed and Wikicommons user AgnosticPreachersKid.