Code for Printable Guns Still Making Waves

As courts try to ban the digital files, they have been downloaded over 1.5M times, and Defense Distributed is now selling them on flash drives at pay-what-you-want prices.

Wilson's original single-shot Liberator 3D-printed pistol.
Wilson's original single-shot Liberator 3D-printed pistol.Defense Distributed

On August 27, a federal judge extended the order forbidding the distribution of downloadable 3D printed gun files. Amazon has taken similar action, removing the 584-page blueprint “The Liberator Code Book: An Exercise in Freedom of Speech” from its online storefront. Despite these actions, the plans have been downloaded 1.5 million times this month. “The Court finds that the irreparable burdens on the private defendants’ First Amendment rights are dwarfed by the irreparable harms the States are likely to suffer if the existing restrictions are withdrawn and that, overall, the public interest strongly supports maintaining the status quo through the pendency of this litigation,” said U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik as he extended the temporary ban last Monday, arguing that public safety concerns outweighed free speech. Amazon has removed the $20 book containing similar info, The Liberator Code Book: An Exercise in the Freedom of Speech, citing violations to its terms of service, though the book contains little more than computer code. Forbes reports that an Amazon spokesperson stated that, “book was removed for violating our content guidelines,” though the spokesperson declined to elaborate on which guidelines the book violated. The spokesperson provided terms of service that prevented the sale of pornography, offensive content, illegal and infringing content, the use of certain public domain materials and poor customer service experience. Ilya Shapiro, a senior fellow in constitutional studies at the Cato Institute, told Forbes that, “The scope of the injunction is to prevent Cody Wilson and Defense Distributed from publishing the files online. If the files are available in hard copy or book it is different.” In spite of all this, or perhaps because of it, CodeIsFreeSpeech.com, the website hosting free downloadable code for printing seven different firearms, received nearly 1.5 billion hits, transferring some 4.51 TB of data since launching July 31, according to guns.com. The Firearms Policy Coalition, alongside other gun rights groups, created the site to disseminate the information to the public. Craig DeLuz, of the Firearms Policy Coalition, pointed out that the site averages more than 10,000 new visitors per week. “Our site will absolutely continue to be published, whatever it takes,” DeLuz told guns.com. “If technology firms abandon the First Amendment on this, it does not bode well for America. Democracy dies in darkness, and when Amazon and Jeff Bezos censor speech.”

Cody Wilson at what he called the first Defense Distributed press conference held on August 28.
Cody Wilson at what he called the first Defense Distributed press conference held on August 28.photo from arstechnica

In another twist, yesterday Wilson announced he would continue to comply with a federal court order forbidding him with internationally publishing CAD files of firearms. Wilson said he would also begin selling copies of his 3D-printed gun files for a "suggested price" of $10 each, but that he will allow people to pay what they want.

According to this story from arstechnica.com, a crucial detail is that the files will be transmitted to customers "on a DD-branded flash drive" in the United States. Wilson also mentioned looking into customer email and secure download links.

"I'm happy to become the iTunes of 3D guns if I can't be Napster," Wilson said in the story, adding that anyone can submit a file to sell on his platform, where they will receive 50 percent of the sales proceeds. Wilson said files uploaded to the platform must "be liquid info," or things like CAD files, blueprints, and schematics. He reiterated users cannot resell materials they don't possess the rights to and that Defense Distributed has already put the infrastructure in place to review user submissions.

During the press conference, the story says Wilson periodically checked his phone to see recent DD pay-what-you-want sales.

"I've seen a guy pay $15, lots of people paying $1, others are $10, $8 for the AR-15 file," he told the assembled press. "It's very generous, just people who want to support us. See, $0, a free-rider—give me a cent." He said the company has completed "a few hundred" pay-what-you-want transactions thus far.

"We’re not desperate for cash, we’re just covering costs," he said. "I remember when Radiohead did this, they said they didn’t make real money for this… I don’t expect to either. There’s plenty of people who don't want this, don't care, until they see the Attorney General of Pennsylvania doesn’t want you to have it."

"Today I want to clarify, anyone who wants these files will get them—I’ll sell them, I'll ship them," he continued. "The free exchange of these ideas will never be interrupted. I’m also inviting the public to share their own files and share the profit with me.