"No Takedowns. Ever." That was the defiant message that Cody Wilson delivered in a YouTube video promoting Defense Distributed, an organization he founded dedicated to designing and distributing plans for weapons that anyone can make using a 3D printer at home. But after Defense Distributed was targeted by the U.S State Department, Wilson and his colleagues have taken the plans down, for now.
In the past few months, Wilson, a 25-year-old law student at the University of Texas, has become something of an internet folk hero for his blustery campaign to make gun schematics as easily downloaded on the internet as Mad Men episodes. Earlier this month Wilson demonstrated the "Liberator," the first completely 3D-printed gun. 3D printing is being hailed by libertarian nerds as the most disruptive technology since Bitcoin, putting the power to physically print anything that can be designed on a computer (as long as it's made out of plastic). 3D printed guns have caused gun nuts and geeks to form up into a sort of Libertarian voltron.
But yesterday, the State Department ordered Defense Distributed's website, DEFCAD.org, to remove a number of blueprints for guns because they believe they may violate international arms regulations. Wilson did.
"We have to comply," Wilson told Forbes. "All such data should be removed from public access, the letter says. That might be an impossible standard. But we'll do our part to remove it from our servers." Predictably, copies of the files, which have been downloaded 100,000 times so far, have been compiled into torrents that are now being distributed by The Pirate Bay. (Kim Dotcom is also involved in this story, as Defense Distributed uploaded their plans to his Mega file-locker site, which means 3D printed guns connects pretty much every node of this particular internet subculture.)
The more ardent techno-libertarians say that the Liberator and Defense Distributed proves that gun control is now pointless since anyone can make their own using the files that have now spread throughout the internet. But as the State Department takedown shows, even virtual gun nuts still have to obey the law. If you were extremely determined you could still track down the gun files on the Pirate Bay and print your own. Or you could buy a much better gun the old fashioned way, at a barely-regulated gun show.