If there is one figure who embodies a majority of the controversy surrounding 3D printing, that figure would likely be Cody Wilson. The law school dropout, who I must say I admire, not for his political agenda, but for his intellect and foresight, has certainly alarmed the US State Department over the last couple of years.
In fact, this week it will be 2 years to the day since Wilson received an urgent letter from the US State Department demanding the take down of files he had posted online for blueprints of the Liberator, a 3D printable one-shot gun. Wilson did cave to the pressure, removing the files, but before he did, it had been downloaded over 100,000 times and to this day continues to spread around the world. Many individuals have even modified the design since then.
Although Wilson and his gun manufacturing advocacy group, Defense Distributed, did give in to the pressure, after being threatened with decades in prison for the violation of regulations forbidding the international export of unapproved arms, he has not rolled over by any means. In fact, last year he began selling a $1,500 milling machine called the Ghost Gunner, which ‘3D prints’ the lower receiver of an AR-15 rifle.
After two years, a loss of possible revenue, and his rights allegedly restricted, Wilson has teamed with the 650,000 member Washington-based Second Amendment Foundation and their founder Alan Gottlieb to file a federal lawsuit in Defense Distributed’s home state of Texas. The complaint alleges that the US State Department, along with the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC), Secretary of State John Kerry and four other State Department officials (Kenneth B. Handelman, C. Edward Peartree, Sarah J. Heidema and Glenn Smith) had violated Wilson’s First, Second and Fifth Amendment Rights. They seek an injunction by the court and compensation for the monetary loss attributed to the actions of the State Department against Defense Distributed two years ago. If the injunction is given, the Second Amendment foundation would immediately place CAD files and information on their website as ‘educational material’ for their members to download for free.
“Defendants’ acts have thus caused irreparable injury to Plaintiffs, their customers, visitors, and members, whose First, Second, and Fifth Amendment rights are violated by Defendants’ actions. Defendants’ acts have further caused Defense Distributed to suffer monetary loss as a result of its inability to publish the Subject Files,” explains the complaint filed in the State of Texas by Defense Distributed and the Second Amendment Foundation.
“At the time it posted the Published Files, Defense Distributed did not know that the Defendants would demand to pre-approve public speech. Defense Distributed believed, and continues to believe, that the United States Constitution guarantees a right to share truthful speech—especially speech concerning fundamental constitutional rights—in open forums. Nevertheless, for fear of criminal and civil enforcement, Defense Distributed promptly complied with Defendants’ demands and removed all of the Published Files from its servers.”
The main argument that Wilson is trying to make is that his freedom of speech was violated as information (the code and files making up the 3D design of the Liberator) is considered a form of speech. The US State Department, on the other hand, argues that International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) were violated by Wilson and Defense Distributed because the files were made available internationally via the internet, superseding Wilson’s right to free speech. It’s certainly going to be interesting to see just how this case is handled, and who ultimately will come out as the victor. The implications of this case could be staggering, as a victory for Defense Distributed and the Second Amendment Foundation would open the floodgates for rapid sharing of potentially millions of different printable gun models.
No matter whose side you may be on, there is little doubt that this will be just one of many landmark cases regarding rapid advancements in technology. Let’s hear your thoughts on this complaint in the Defense Distributed Vs State Department forum thread on 3DPB.com. The full complaint can be found below: