In reaction to the blueprints for the 3D-printed plastic gun being downloaded more than 100,000 times, the US government has decided that ‘enough’s enough’ and to take them off of the world wide web. The process for doing so has begun, with the US State Department writing to the gun’s designer Defense Distributed and threatening action due to a breach of arms-control regulations, with a request for the files to be “removed from public access”.
Though the files have now been taken down from their Defcad site, it is proving to be more difficult. The downloads continue to rise and the blueprints have been uploaded to filesharing site, The Pirate Bay, who have been using Reddit to spread the download link. Cody Wilson, Defense Distributed’s founder, has said that it is going from bad to worse.
“Once people heard what happened, PirateBay has exploded. I’m sat here watching it now, seeing the downloads go up and up.”
There are now disagreements between the two parties over whether they had the rights to put them online and thus allow those outside of the US access to download the files, or whether they’d broken the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). Mr Wilson is completely confident that they were within their rights, and have done no wrong. “Our gun operations were registered with ITAR.” He said, “They are stalling, they are going to make this review last as long as they can. They are getting a lot of political pressure.”
“We’ve also had offers of help from lawyers from all around the country”
The ‘Liberator’, their printed gun, is entirely constructed from plastic. Defense Distribted’s industrial £5,000 3D printer uses a high-density plastic to enable their gun to withstand the power of firing a bullet. As 3D printers are becoming far more popular, it has been confirmed that people are allowed to build the gun but not sell it.
Cody Wilson also argued that his corporation had obtained a license from the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to manufacture and sell firearms which complied with the ATF’s policies.
He said: “I recognize the tool might be used to harm other people – that’s what the tool is – it’s a gun. But I don’t think that’s a reason to not do it – or a reason to put it out there.”
Defense Distributed stated that their goal was “to defend the civil liberty of popular access to arms” and “to publish and distribute, at no cost to the public, such information and knowledge.”
Mr Wilson sees this as an issue “about liberty”.
“This is the conversation I want,” Wilson says. “Is this a workable regulatory regime? Can there be defence trade control in the era of the Internet and 3D printing?”
Here is the said letter:
Dear Mr. Wilson,
The Department of State, Bureau of Political Military Affairs, Office of Defense Trade Controls Compliance, Enforcement Division (DTCC/END) is responsible for compliance with and civil enforcement of the Arms Export Control Act (22 U.S.C. 2778) (AECA) and the AECA’s implementing regulations, the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (22 C.F.R. Parts 120-130) (ITAR). The AECA and the ITAR impose certain requirements and restrictions on the transfer of, and access to, controlled defense articles and related technical data designated by the United States Munitions List (USML) (22 C.F.R. Part 121).
The DTCC/END is conducting a review of technical data made publicly available by Defense Distributed through its 3D printing website, DEFCAD.org, the majority of which appear to be related to items in Category I of the USML. Defense Distributed may have released ITAR-controlled technical data without the required prior authorization from the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC), a violation of the ITAR.
Technical data regulated under the ITAR refers to information required for the design, development, production, manufacture, assembly, operation, repair, testing, maintenance or modification of defense articles, including information in the form of blueprints, drawings, photographs, plans, instructions or documentation. For a complete definition of technical data, see 120.10 of the ITAR. Pursuant to 127.1 of the ITAR, it is unlawful to export any defense article or technical data for which a license or written approval is required without first obtaining the required authorization from the DDTC. Please note that disclosing (including oral or visual disclosure) or tranferring technical data to a foreign person, whether in the United States or abroad, is considered an export under 120.17 of the ITAR.
The Department believes Defense Distributed may not have established the proper jurisdiction of the subject technical data. To resolve this matter officially, we request that Defense Distributed submit Commodity Jurisdiction (CJ) determination requests for the following selection of data files available on DEFCAD.org, and any other technical data for which Defense Distributed is unable to determine proper jurisdiction:
- Defense Distributed Liberator pistol
- .22 electric
- 125mm BK-14M high-explosive anti-tank warhead
- 5.56/.223 muzzle brake
- Springfield XD-40 tactical slide assembly
- Sound Moderator – slip on
- “The Dirty Diane” 1/2-28 to 3/4-16 STP S3600 oil filter silencer adapter
- 12 gauge to .22 CB sub-caliber insert
- Voltlock electronic black powder system
- VZ-58 sight
DTCC/END requests that Defense Distributed submits its CJ requests within three weeks of the receipt of this letter and notify this office of the final CJ determinations. All CJ requests must be submitted electronically through an online application using the DS-4076 Commodity Jurisdiction Request Form. The form, guidance for submitting CJ requests, and other relevant information such as a copy of the ITAR can be found on DDTC’s website at http://www.pmddtc.state.gov.
Until the Department provides Defense Distributed with the final CJ determinations, Defense Distributed should treat the above technical data as ITAR-controlled. This means that all such data should be removed from public access immediately. Defense Distributed should also review the remainder of the data made public on its website to determine whether any additional data may be similarly controlled and proceed according to ITAR requirements.
Additionally, DTCC/END requests information about the procedures Defense Distributed follows to determine the classification of its technical data, to include aforementioned technical data files. We ask that you provide your procedures for determining proper jurisdiction of technical data within 30 days of the date of this letter to Ms. Bridget Van Buren, Compliance Specialist, Enforcement Division, at the address below.
We appreciate your full cooperation in this matter. Please note our reference number in any future correspondence.
Glenn E. Smith
Chief, Enforcement Division