In addition to the removal of the plans for the “Liberator” handgun released Monday, the State Department ordered Defense Distributed founder Cody Wilson to remove blueprints for nine other 3D-printable firearms components.
Interestingly, they ordered the removal while they review the files for compliance with International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), the government’s export control laws for weapons, according to Forbes.
In other words, they’re not even sure if it violates the regulations, yet they’re still calling for the plans to be removed.
“Until the Department provides Defense Distributed with final [commodity jurisdiction] determinations, Defense Distributed should treat the above technical data as ITAR-controlled,” the letter reads, referring to ten CAD files.
The files include the 3D-printable gun, silencers, sights and other firearms-related itmes.
“This means that all data should be removed from public access immediately,” the letter continues. “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.”
This comes just two days after Sen. Chuck Schumer called the potential ramifications of 3D-printable guns “stomach-churning. The New York Daily News refers to 3D-printable guns as “make-your-own untraceable and undetectable weapons.”
Schumer called for “legislation outlawing the technology’s weapons potential,” according to New York Daily News.
Wilson, who is currently a law student at the University of Texas in Austin, says that Defense Distributed will indeed take down the files until the State Department completes its review.
“We have to comply,” Wilson said. “’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 Andy Greenberg of Forbes points out, while Wilson said he will comply with removing it from his site, it doesn’t mean that the U.S. government has successfully snuffed out the 3D-printable gun.
The files were downloaded around 100,000 times in just two days and the files were actually served by Mega, the new storage service based out of New Zealand by infamous internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom.
Of course, Dotcom is now well known as a critic of the U.S. government and it is unclear if he will remove it from Mega’s servers at this point.
“The blueprint for gun and other Defense Distributed firearm components have also been uploaded several times to the Pirate Bay, the censorship-resistant filesharing site,” Greenberg notes.
There is also the possibility of other mirrors of the files as well. It seems impossible for the government to completely censor every website hosting the files at this point.
In addition, Wilson said that he is also exploring a potential legal exemption from ITAR statutes for non-profit public domain releases of technical files.
This exemption is designed to create a safe harbor for public interest activities like research and would, according to Wilson, require the files to be stored in a library or sold in a bookstore.
Under ITAR statutes, the internet counts as a library, according to Wilson, and he has also made the file available in an Austin, Texas bookstore.
“This is the conversation I want,” Wilson said. “Is this a workable regulatory regime? Can there be defense trade control in the era of the Internet and 3D printing?”
It seems that if there can be, it will be incredibly difficult based on how quickly the files spread across the internet.
Although Defense Distributed tweeted the below earlier this morning, I was able to access their site momentarily before being served another 503 error.
#DEFCAD has gone dark at the request of the Department of Defense Trade Controls. Take it up with the Secretary of State.
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