Torrented 3D-printed gun blueprints shows Internet can’t be silenced

May 10, 2013
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In case you missed it, yesterday the Department of Defense went after the much-publicized "The Liberator" 3D-printed gun, which has been successfully tested and can be created entirely (with the exception of the firing pin) with ABS plastic and a 3D printer. According to the US Department of Defense Trade Controls, the company responsible for the gun - Defense Distributed - could have violated the International Traffic in Arms Regulation by distributing the CAD file without authorization under the Arms Export Control Act. As a result, the file was pulled the same day it went live, but not after having been downloaded over 100,000 times. Now it has reached torrent websites, and there's no taking it back.

The blueprints were released on DefCad.org by The Liberator creator Cody Wilson. A short while after the download went live, a red banner appeared at the top of the website announcing that the United States government "claims control of the information," and as such had been pulled. The image above is now shown where the download used to be, giving the appearance of a swift and complete removal.

For all of its grand talk and rapid response, however, the Defense Department's actions were a case of "too little, too late." The blueprints had already been downloaded tens of thousands of times, residing on thousands of hard drives likely located in multiple countries. Such a wide dissemination of information is like a large stone being pushed down a steep hill - trying to stop is not only near impossible, but also likely to cause more harm in the long run. The censorship of the information served only to bring the downloads to the public eye, prompting some who disagreed with the government's decision to counter its block by releasing the information on BitTorrent and The Pirate Bay.

A quick look at The Pirate Bay shows a copy of the blueprints being distributed by thousands of seeders and acquired by hundreds of leechers, with the same kind of numbers appearing on other torrent websites that were looked at. Some of those downloading have expressed intention to upload it elsewhere, increasing both the number of places from which it is available and the number of individuals who come to harbor the information. The government will go after some of the locations where the file is hosted, but cannot do so beyond its jurisdiction.

According to BetaBeat, the firearm's designer Cody Wilson said on the matter: "I still think we win in the end. Because the files are all over the Internet, the Pirate Bay has it – to think this can be stopped in any meaningful way is to misunderstand what the future of distributive technologies is about."


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