After finding its way to over 100,000 hard drives in a matter of mere days, the blueprints for the world's first fully 3D-printed gun have finally been pulled from the designer's website at the request of the US State Department. Being digital files for highly regulated weapons, 3D-printed gun blueprints currently fall into a bit of a legal grey area, namely with export control laws known as the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR).
And because the group behind the plans, Defense Distributed, uploaded the files online, they could have easily been downloaded overseas.
Now, this may or may not have violated the United States' strict export controls over firearms. But because this is such new territory, the US State Department is demanding that these blueprints — along with nine other 3D-printable firearm components — be removed until they're able to determine whether or not this is considered a violation.
The State Department, however, isn't just demanding that the files be removed from Defense Distributed's own website, Defcad.org, but from all public access whatsoever. And as anyone who's ever had anything even remotely embarrassing pop up online knows, totally erasing the offending data from the web is a near impossible task. Especially with something as high-profile and controversial as these blueprints, which are already appearing on torrenting sites.
These files are supposedly the most heavily downloaded file on The Pirate Bay at the moment. So, try as the State Department might, now that the blueprints have been set free, they're certainly not going to be going away anytime soon. Because if anything's going to make the public want to get a hold of these files, it's telling them they can't have it — especially with no real way of enforcing the ban. The full text of the State Department's removal request as obtained by Forbes follows.
United States Department of State
Bureau of Political-Military Affairs
Offense of Defense Trade Controls Compliance
May 08, 2013
In reply letter to DTCC Case: 13-0001444
[Cody Wilson's address redacted]
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 licence 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.
Office of Defense Trade Controls Compliance
PM/DTCC, SA-1, Room L132
2401 E Street, NW
Washington, DC 20522
We appreciate your full cooperation in this matter. Please note our reference number in any future correspondence.
Glenn E. Smith
Chief, Enforcement Division