May 10 2013

US Government Attempts to Censor Shapes


A University of Texas Law School student named Cody Wilson started a non-profit company called Defense Distributed [defdist.org] whose published purpose is:

The specific purposes for which this corporation is organized are: To defend the civil liberty of popular access to arms as guaranteed by the United States Constitution and affirmed by the United States Supreme Court, through facilitating global access to, and the collaborative production of, information and knowledge related to the 3D printing of arms; and to publish and distribute, at no cost to the public, such information and knowledge in promotion of the public interest.

They design and test firearms that are made using a 3D printer and then release the designs for public use at no charge.


A recent design for a gun made entirely of plastic, except for a nail used as the firing pin, has triggered a conflict and controversy that was inevitable. The US Department of State has sent DefDist a cease and desist order resulting in the following banner on DefDist.org:

DEFCAD files are being removed from public access at the request of the US Department of Defense Trade Controls.
Until further notice, the United States government claims control of the information.

The State Dept. wants to review the files for the guns to see if they are in compliance with arms export control laws. The International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) is part of US Federal law [22 U.S.C. parts 120-130].

Here is the letter sent to Cody Wilson:

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
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:

  1. Defense Distributed Liberator pistol
  2. .22 electric
  3. 125mm BK-14M high-explosive anti-tank warhead
  4. 5.56/.223 muzzle brake
  5. Springfield XD-40 tactical slide assembly
  6. Sound Moderator – slip on
  7. “The Dirty Diane” 1/2-28 to 3/4-16 STP S3600 oil filter silencer adapter
  8. 12 gauge to .22 CB sub-caliber insert
  9. Voltlock electronic black powder system
  10. 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
Phone 202-663-3323

We appreciate your full cooperation in this matter. Please note our reference number in any future correspondence.

Glenn E. Smith
Chief, Enforcement Division

In spite of any strong assertion that the right to self defense and therefore to keep and bear arms is a fundamental and undeniable right that exists naturally and precludes any government attempt to regulate it, it seems obvious that we need some form of regulation or restriction on extreme weapons technology such as nuclear bombs. Freedom means having the right to wave your arms around and that freedom ends when in the course of waving your arms around, you smack the person standing next to you in the face. When nuclear bombs become necessary for self defense, the right to posess one will exist whether they are regulated or not.

It also seems obvious that any attempt to censor or regulate shapes is futile. Once a piece of information has been released, it cannot simply be retracted. The file server hosting Cody Wilsons files is in New Zealand, outside of US jurisdiction. The files themselves have already been fed into multiple bit torrent feeds (a peer to peer distributed data protocol) and would be difficult if not impossible to eradicate. The US government lost this battle the moment they began it, regardless of what the State Dept findings or any court hearing returns.

The threat from a design for a plastic gun seems minor compared to other looming technologies. We will be even more unable to contain engineered viruses, DNA modification, nanotechnology or artificial intelligence and the potential dangers are far greater.

Lexington and Concord
Guns Don’t Make You Safe
Arms Control is Un-Ethical