United States Government Shows The World It Doesn't Understand The Internet, Claims "Ownership" Of Specific Files

The United States Department of Defense has “claimed ownership” of CAD drawings of a plastic, printable pistol. In doing so, they apparently believe they can stop the files from existing. The result is obviously the complete opposite, which calls into strong question the judgment and ability of United States Government to set Internet policy at all.

When the public received the means of production through 3D printing, it was obvious that you could no longer regulate which objects were allowed to exist and which didn’t, just as you can no longer regulate distribution of information. Well, obvious to anybody but bureaucrats in governments who insist they cannot lose any control.

The think tank Defense Distributed has been developing 3D printer drawings for weapons parts for some time. First, they published drawings for vital parts for the AR-15 rifle (the civilian version of the military Armalite M-16) which could be printed by anybody in their homes, and then moved on to creating an all-plastic weapon which could be printed by anybody without dependence on other manufacturers, the “Liberator” in 17 parts.

This was not a matter of breaking the law of weapons regulations – this was a matter of the law having become unenforceable and obsolete through advancements in technology.

Late yesterday, the United States’ Department of Defense contacted Defense Distributed and told them that the United States government were seizing the drawings and claimed ownership of the files. This move was utterly ridiculous, as the drawings had already been published. The immediate effect was that Defense Distributed complied, and everybody else started seeding the files like wildfire. This is cause for concern – not the fact that the files exist, but that the US Government can be so completely boneheaded to think they can prevent information from existing by saying so.

The pistol drawings exist in the form of a magnet link which picks the file from whoever has them, with no central repository. The other files from Defense Distributed have also been censored by the United States government, which contain vital (printable) parts for an AR-15 and similar things, but these files are similarly available through a simple link. Predictably, their distribution has gone absolutely stratospheric.

We have long seen how the US Government is completely boneheaded and unfit to set and shape Internet policy, due to their simply not understanding of what the Internet is and how it works. This episode underscores that conclusion strongly.

Part of the reason the US doesn’t understand the Internet is because of the country’s vastly substandard infrastructure, since they have allowed cable companies and telcos to dictate what the Internet should look like (and the US is therefore far, far behind countries like Romania and Lithuania – countries that were considered near-developing countries 20 years ago, a timeframe that policymakers in Washington are apparently stuck in. We’ll be returning to that in a separate article.)

In any case, this episode shows that the US government is simply unfit to even have an opinion on shaping the future Internet.

Rick Falkvinge

Rick is the founder of the first Pirate Party and a low-altitude motorcycle pilot. He lives on Alexanderplatz in Berlin, Germany, roasts his own coffee, and as of right now (2019-2020) is taking a little break.


  1. […] Someone said: “The United States Department of Defense has “claimed ownership” of CAD drawings of a plastic, printable pistol. In doing so, they apparently believe they can stop the files from existing.” …http://falkvinge.net/2013/05/10/united-states-shows-the-world-it-doesnt-understand-the-internet-clai… […]

  2. Jerker Montelius

    Even in the US, on what leagal ground do they clame ownership of the files?

    1. Caleb Lanik

      I’d like to know this too. Blueprints for making weapons, and in fact, making a gun is perfectly legal in the US, selling said guns are a separate issue, but my understanding is that the government is claiming that the blueprints are the same thing as an actual weapon, and they can therefore regulate said blueprints, which is entirely illogical.

      1. Anders S Lindbäck

        Export of weapons are regulated. And that does not only include weapons but also information about how to make weapons or crypto or any type of equipment that can be used in creating weapons of mass destruction.

        1. fabricdragon

          but its not a weapon of mass destruction, or even a classified weapon, or even a RESTRICTED weapon… its a pistol.

        2. M

          “Export of weapons are regulated.” – Ohhh, let me download those 2 torrents and seed them like forever …

    2. Ninja

      The US are known for making up laws or secret interpretations when it suits their absolute control needs….

  3. Nick Taylor

    I’d guess that what they’re doing here is making a legalistic chess-move… “taking a position”, from which sets of legal consequences flow, or become available.

    Whether this is ass-covering, or setting themselves up for an attack on Cody, or a more generic attack on a wider target… remains to be seen. They did a similar thing with Wikileaks – and that was not about “retrieving” information. It was a tactical legal move.

    I doubt that what they’re doing is taking a paper-based law and applying it to the web. Could be wrong though I suppose.

  4. harveyed

    Well I could understand if NRA would lobby against “pirate armories” or whatever they would call them because they are afraid to lose sales on hobby competition that home-3D printing of guns would allow. Just like copyright lobbying trying to fend off hobby competition to try and protect professional media distribution…

  5. RedWormCharlie

    Proving that when it sees fit, the federal government proves that copyright doesn’t matter.

  6. politux

    It is a completely absurd notion.

    Hard to get a genie back in the bottle. But it amuses me when people who have 0 understanding of how the Internet works attempt to remove content by fiat.

  7. Anders S Lindbäck

    The goverment is not claiming ownership. They are claiming that the files might be in violation of the laws of export of weapons from the USA.

    Arms dealers need permits for export/import. Note that not only weapons but things like crypto are export regulated because the US goverment consider them important for their military.

    Thats why most of the free crypto software is developed outside the USA ; its the export regulations that stop them being developed in the USA.

    1. Ninja

      Even if you consider export stuff it’s not the case. Nobody is exporting anything. It`s about control.

  8. GreenPirate

    Thanks for posting this! I contributed to the recent TorrentFreak article on this topic and I’m astounded by the amount of people who feel it is appropriate to hold a third party accountable for the actions, or even the potential actions, of an individual. We would do well to focus on pursuing actual criminals instead of hoping to hide an aspect of the reality that heinous crimes can and do occur.

    Not a single person so far has volunteers to take responsibilty for the actions of somebody else. We can extrapolate this approach into any circumstance. Are beer brewers or car manufacturers to blame for drunk driving? Or in this case, are car designers to blame? Are you to blame for somebody else’s actions who reads something you write, interprets it in some skewed way and then kills somebody?

    This is the question anybody in support of censoring data must ask themselves. Are you willing to take responsibility for somebody else’s crime? If the answer is “no,” support free data.

    1. 4ndy

      While I agree with you that it would be silly to reprimand a designer or creator of a tool for its potential uses, unless they directly encourage a crime, that general idea that individuals should be blamed or even punished for their crimes is at least as flawed and antiquated as this idea that one can remove a public file from the modern internet.

      All ‘blame’ and punishment has gained us is increasing violence of people through prisons. When we look at what causes contributed to crime, our purpose should not be to go and unnecessarily punish even more people, but to identify what went wrong and prevent it from happening in future. Please don’t confuse responsibility with culpability.
      In this topic of violent crime, we know that we can’t get rid of it by getting rid of weapons, as they only facilitate more violence where it already exists, but we also know quite well that societies that have the most inequality, regardless of their absolute wealth or weapon availability, are the most violent ones. Inequality also comes with a great host of other problems, and this should be addressed from a preventive health perspective, not religious concepts of ‘bad people’.

      1. Ninja

        Punishment that fits the crime, due process, balanced justice. The US has none of those. Also, former convicts simply have no expectation of having a life after leaving the jails regardless of the severity of their crimes. How will they survive if nobody gives them jobs? Back to crime I guess.

  9. Anonymous

    it has got nothing whatsoever with the USA not understanding anything. it is their typical attitude of

    ‘what we say is right! it is always going to be right, regardless of when we are wrong and regardless of what anyone else says or thinks! we are the World Police and can do, will do, whatever we want, wherever we want!’

    has no one realised yet how the USA has changed? it is no more the nation that held privacy and freedom in the highest esteem. it is a nation that is suppressing it’s people by removing what it originally held most dear and by introducing more and more surveillance, all in the name of ‘protecting from terrorism’! the only terrorists are their own government and law enforcement agencies! the country is run in the background by corporations, in particular, the entertainment industries, the head of which openly declared that if the government didn’t do what it wanted, it would remove the millions in funding!

  10. Max Pont
  11. Grapefrukt!

    One day soon kids will die or get seriously hurt because of these drawings and alike. Isn’t it bad enough already with much too many deadly weapons all over the world. Wonder if Falkvinge and his supporters will be cheering on the pro gun-lobby when they speak about everybodys right to own a gun and the righjt to make deadly weapons..

    1. Buglord

      just a note: EVERYTHING can be used as a deadly weapon, if used in a certain way, this is no different.

    2. Scary Devil Monastery

      “One day soon kids will die or get seriously hurt because of these drawings and alike.”

      And the average book on high-school chemistry contains all the information required to build a potent explosive and/or toxic gas out of common household components.

      I suppose by that argument you carry, every chemistry teacher needs to be hauled in front of the Haague tribunal?

      ” Isn’t it bad enough already with much too many deadly weapons all over the world.”

      In switzerland it’s actually law that every male between the age of 18-24 has a fully functional military assault rifle and a handgun at their house. And yet despite that, gun-related murder in switzerland is one of the lowest in existence.

      Mexico city has one of the most draconian anti-firearms laws in the world and yet their rate of gun-related murder is among the highest in the world.

      1) You can ban weapons as much as you like, but it will impact murder not at all. Criminals will always find ways to kill other people.

      2) Information is not weaponry. In assuming it is you become a far greater threat to the average man in the street than any number of imagined bogeymen running around with home-printed plastic one-shot small-calibre weapons in a world where they might as easily build a Fuel-air explosive out of diesel fuel and kill hundreds of people instead.

      3) If your aim is to prevent injury and death, then going after weapons is like taking aspirin against brain cancer. The state of general mental health and satisfaction in the citizenry is what keeps the swiss from murdering one another wholesale. Nothing else.

      1. Ninja

        It’s a pity that a good lot of the mainstream is just like the original poster. Go after the symptom rather than the cause..

      2. Grapefrukt!

        “1) You can ban weapons as much as you like, but it will impact murder not at all. Criminals will always find ways to kill other people.”

        You are either being ignorant or just stupid, a lot of killings with handguns are made by mistake or accident not by criminals but by children or adults who never would get close to a gun if it wasn’t for lax gunlaws in a lot of countries!

        “3) If your aim is to prevent injury and death, then going after weapons is like taking aspirin against brain cancer. The state of general mental health and satisfaction in the citizenry is what keeps the swiss from murdering one another wholesale. Nothing else.”
        Oh yeah? I guess a bigger reason is that you missed that a lot of Swiss males may have guns and rifles but they often doesnt have any ammunition to them as they often are kept separate for the security of the swiss population. And not every male swiss between 18-24 have what you claim, a large percent are not allowed to have those weapons.
        So yeah keepin weapons and ammo out of reach does mean less killings either by accident or by will.

        “2) Information is not weaponry.”
        Another fallacy of yours, of course the wrong information in somebodies hand or head can and has often been used against societies and people.

        1. Ninja

          You are mixing accidental deaths with murder. Accidental deaths can be easily prevented with education (ie: store your gun unloaded and keep the ammo in a different, inaccessible for kids place).

          You`ll need citations for your Swiss rant. His point remains. Brazil forbids carrying and owning (mostly) guns and yet we have absurd murder rates and accidents with guns (including those that harm children).

          As he pointed out and you ignored basic chemistry can be used to produce dangerous weapons and yet you don’t see people using it everywhere. What will you do? Ban chemistry because it can be used as a weapon????

          I despise people like you. Instead of freaking out over some plastic gun blueprint you should be focusing on providing education, basic needs support, due process and proper justice with reasonable punishments and reeducation and reintroduction into society. None of those are done properly in the US nowadays. And maybe that`s why ppl are freaking out and attacking the symptoms instead of the causes of the violence.

        2. Scary Devil Monastery

          “You are either being ignorant or just stupid, a lot of killings with handguns are made by mistake or accident not by criminals but by children or adults who never would get close to a gun if it wasn’t for lax gunlaws in a lot of countries!”

          Which has absolutely NOTHING AT ALL to do with deliberate use of murder tools. If accidents is your beef, then i feel compelled to point out to you that the original post details a “weapon” which is still harder to build and less lethal than homebrewing toxic gas bombs using household chemicals.

          And you can still learn that from a grade school chemistry book, needless to say.

          Nor do “lax gun laws” have ANYTHING at all to do with mere information.

          “Another fallacy of yours, of course the wrong information in somebodies hand or head can and has often been used against societies and people.”

          Like chemistry, computer science, metallurgy and nuclear science?

          The only way your argument holds consistency is if you make the claim that information, knowledge and education should be restricted. If so, I would suggest you move from Sweden to Iran where your views are seen as “normal”.

          In short all you have to argue with is straw men, flawed logic, and the odd implied ad hominem? Fine.

      3. Ano Nymous

        For once, I actually agree with you completely. Just a comment to you and “ninja”: The EU are actually banning household chemicals for that very reason: https://www.flashback.org/t2068162 (in Swedish)
        The worst thing is that ACETONE is on that list! I use that to clean almost everything that can handle it. Other noteworthy chemicals are potassium- and sodium nitrate (meat preservatives that also keeps the color of the meat) and hydrogen peroxide (active substance in bleach and stain remover, as well as glowsticks).

        The law is also completely worthless. I know how to make explosives out of things that cannot be banned, such as copper, aluminium and water in a simple process. I can’t tell you how, because that would be illegal: https://www.flashback.org/t1728198 (Also in Swedish, translation follows)

        “5§ One who transmits or attempts to transmit instructions about the manufacture or use of such explosives, weapons or dangerous substances that are particularly intended to be used in especially severe crimes, or about other methods or techniques that are particularly intended for such use, is sentenced to prison for a maximum of two years, if the act has been committed with the knowledge that the instructions are intended to be used for especially severe crimes.”

        That is just as fuzzy as it looks. Maybe it is even enough that I mentioned the raw materials? I hope not. The Liberator files are most likely covered, watch out, Rick.

        I should also mention that I am not a terrorist, and will not use my knowledge of those chemical processes for anything bad.

    3. Mr.J

      By all means Grapefrukt, then let’s have the “World Police” step in and strip us “errant children” of our freedoms once again. In fact why don’t we go a step further and ONLY allow the good old USA to manufacture and regulate the sales of firearms. Surely we can trust them, right?

      This argument is completely irrational. Day by day, step by step the USA is showing the world they CANNOT be trusted, and their judgement is biased towards huge corporations and whomever can pay off the right people, not the public good as it once was… actually I’m beginning to wonder if it ever was.

      This gun design, a single shot pistol, is obviously not what they are after. The world has entered a phase where an average Joe can now replicate anything with a few thousand in equipment. I bet if you asked the creator, he would say the gun design was simply created to illustrate to the folly of the government’s arguments. Trying to control something like this is like trying to put your finger in the proverbial dike to stop the flood. It’s a poignant illustration, and the USA is falling right into the trap by attempting to ban and control it, when it’s impossible. They are showing the world that they are willing to make every person on the planet a criminal or “enemy combatant” in order to maintain control of the uncontrollable. Let’s see how that works out for them… Kudos to them for making the straw that might break the camel’s back.

      1. Grapefrukt!

        All that bull about “our freedoms” is getting seriously tireing by now. You who actuelly speak about mostly “your” freedoms are a big problem in the world as you believe that by taking YOUR freedoms is what the world is about but Im sorry the world is about responsible people being responsible and you and your ilk most often arent even close to being responsible för anything!
        And you are so far from the truth when you state that an average Joe with a couple of thousand can repolicate almost anything. Shame on you for lying in public!

        Of course USA is not to be trusted on everything but believe me those who are active in trying to get weapons of the streets and from closets and cupboards are doing an effort which actually saves lives you and those who are pro more weapons in any form is not.

  12. Grapefrukt!

    Buglord thats not really true and its a very typical response from someone who doesn’t care about other humans. Tens of thousands of children gets killed every year with handguns some by accident and some by will, with easier access to lethal weapons those figures are gonna increase significantly.
    The world needs less weapons not more.

    1. Scary Devil Monastery

      “The world needs less weapons not more.”

      Will not happen. Not while human beings are human.

      And the number of weapons around is irrelevant. If someone wants to kill someone else, a way will always be found.

      Moreover, the gist of this article is not that we have blueprints of weapons less dangerous than those of a medieval crossbow (the prints of which have been around for centuries). It’s about the lunacy of a government in a civilized nation trying to supress publicly available information by calling attention to it.

    2. Ninja

      Stop being naive. A whole lot of things can be used as weapons. It`s people like you that fuel the idiocy that’s widespread nowadays and reaches the govts like that. Proper education, health care, opportunities and justice is what will keep crimes at check, not some stupid, ineffective action like the article pointed out.

      I’m disgusted by people that are called out on their errors and keep parroting what has just been pointed as wrong. If you want to truly help your future harmed kids you’ll start focusing on the causes, not the symptoms.

      1. Grapefrukt!

        You are the naive if you think that advocating easier access to lethal weapons looking more or less like toys will not reap more victims.. I’ll guess its more important for you to be an internetwarrior than to keep the world safe from idiotic weapons.

        1. Scary Devil Monastery

          “I’ll guess its more important for you to be an internetwarrior than to keep the world safe from idiotic weapons.”

          Your argument doesn’t, however, boil down to any sensible step in ridding the world of weapons. What it boils down to is a desperate cry for book burnings and information blocks because “Duh, guns!”.

          Anyone with a higher education of ANY kind needs simply to look around and lethal weaponry abounds. Sugar, salt, chlorine, saltpeter, vinegar, diesel…there is no end to where you can start making impromptu weapons which will certainly kill or maim dozens. Easily.

          And idiots such as your own low self actually spend the time trying to restrict the information on how to build a flimsy plinking toy less dangerous than the average compressed air gun instead of doing something which would actually help.

          The key in preventing death by guns has always been in preventing people from gaining the motivation and urge to kill, while taking reasonable measures in order to prevent weaponry from ending up in wrong hands.

          That’s not what you do. Metaphorically you’re standing with a torch, ready to toss it into the nearest library because “information is dangerous”.

  13. […] Rick Falkvinge notes, the whole idea of pretending you can delete these files from existence and keep it under control suggests a very confused US government. Not only is the concept […]

  14. wally winkle

    we are all shaking in our boots. should we fear a scenario where google glasses and 3D printable objects are death penalty offences, today 3D tomorrow robots, innovation and technology moving far too rapid for any kind of sane reaction from the authorities when things get complicated. the resulting mess will keep all those overfed lawyers in their smelly office chairs for years to come. America, the land of extremes and poverty, where dreams die slowly om soup kitchen streets strewn with needles and spent cartridges and sex for sale. one thing that gladden my soul is that it is over there and land mass movement aside, shall remain so for many years to come. god bless America, it needs it

    1. Ano Nymous

      Google Glass should be illegal. Not death penalty, but a large fine would be a good idea.
      They are really head-mounted surveillance cameras, broadcasting to Google. Monitoring everyone, all the time, maybe saving info forever on Google’s servers, searchable.

  15. Mario.

    This one is easy to solve.
    The blueprints simply need to carry the watermark: “This drawing is the property of the United States of America” and that is all that is needed to do to comply with the request, am I wrong?

  16. Justin Biebel

    “prevent information from existing by saying so”, yes they can. It has been done before. A rich archive of collective history already has been eradicated. Simply by making certain information illegal and a lot of scare in the media. Some older people will remember but won’t talk about it. It is fairly simple to rewrite history.

    Now we are in the digital age with 100% surveillance in sight. Do you expect you can still share files governments say they ‘own’, a few years from now? Do not underestimate the people in control.

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