When the Clinton administration moved to limit the proliferation of encryption technologies with recourse to International Traffic in Arms Regulation, it didn’t work too well. There was almost a Streisand Effect — outside of government-approved channels, strong cryptography spread unabated until in 1997 ITAR lowered the classification of such software; there was no stopping the proliferation.
There’s a lesson here for the State Department, which this week ordered that Defense Distributed founder Cody Wilson take offline his design for the the 3-D-printable “Liberator” handgun to review the files for compliance with ITAR. It’s a lesson libertarian Wilson seems to already know. Referring to the letter he received from the government ordering that his files be taken down, he told Forbes, “All such data should be removed from public access, the letter says. That might be an impossible standard.”
And indeed, TorrentFreak reports Friday that, while Wilson has complied with the government, “the blueprints, however, are still available on The Pirate Bay and many other file-sharing sites, which adds a 3D chapter to the IP enforcement debate.The Pirate Bay says it welcomes the blueprints and has no intention of taking the files down.” Before Defense Distributed was asked to remove its files, the gun design was downloaded 100,000 times since its release Monday — that’s plenty of fodder for file sharing. Government intervention might yet prompt a Streisand Effect now that groups with little stake in 3-D gun prints, but strong feelings about censorship and data sharing (such as the Pirate Bay), throw their hats into the game.
While the attempted censorship of the 3D gun blueprints may come as no surprise, the popularity of these files is a vivid example of the daunting task faced by those charged with censorship of information.
While DEFCON promptly complied with the request to remove access to the design, it was shared so widely during the short window of availability that it is now virtually impossible to prevent any further distribution. Currently, there appears to be several torrents available for the design at The Pirate Bay and the site informs us that these will not be censored.
“TPB has for close to 10 years been operating without taking down one single torrent due to pressure from the outside. And it will never start doing that,” A Pirate Bay insider told TorrentFreak.