When Defense Distributed founder Cody Wilson (shown in photo) received a letter from the U.S. State Department telling him to remove from his website free blueprints to build a gun using 3D printing technology, he complied immediately. The letter, which was personally signed by Glenn E. Smith, Chief, Enforcement Division, arrived on Wednesday. It read in part:
Pursuant to Section 127.1 of the ITAR [International Traffic in Arms Regulations], 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 [Directorate of Defense Trade Controls].
Please note that disclosing (including oral or visual disclosure) or transferring data to a foreign person, whether in the United States or abroad, is considered an export….
Until the Department provides Defense Distributed with final … 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.
Wilson explained, “I immediately complied and have taken down the files. But this is a much bigger deal than guns. It has implications for the freedom of the web.” And then, noting that in just two days users around the world had already downloaded those files more than 100,000 times, he added: “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 all about.”
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Photo shows Cody Wilson firing "Liberator" gun produced by 3D printer