The Liberator pistol, first revealed barely a week ago, has caught the eye of federal authorities. Cody Wilson, head of gun-printing group Defense Distributed, says he received a letter from the US State Department, asking him to remove files for the Liberator and other gun parts from the site and officially apply for a ruling on whether he can distribute them.
According to the letter, posted by Betabeat, the State Department's Office of Defense Trade Controls Compliance is worried that by posting the blueprints, Wilson may have violated the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), specifically a ban on "exporting any defense article or technical data" that requires a license without first getting authorization. Generally, these rules are meant to keep munition-making tools away from blacklisted countries.
Defense Distributed says the Liberator has been downloaded about 100,000 times
The department says that it needs to review whether ten files on printable weapon repository DefCad, including the Liberator and a plastic model of a "125mm BK-14M high-explosive anti-tank warhead," would require authorization to disclose. In the meantime, it's told Defense Distributed to keep the files offline and review the rest of its catalog to see if anything else could fall under the ban. While Defense Distributed complied, Wilson noted that the files are already on The Pirate Bay and other sites; the Liberator has apparently been downloaded some 100,000 times in only a couple of days.
Getting future files out will certainly be possible, but the real question is whether the State Department will decide to hold Wilson accountable for what is at this point a fairly simple and low-powered device. We've reached out to the department for more details, but if the files do end up falling under ITAR, putting them online could be seen as making them available to China, Cuba, or other countries on the blacklist. Wilson may not be "exporting" in any traditional sense, but the files have a global reach — something that may be exhilarating to his supporters but clearly provokes concern elsewhere.