3d printed handgun frame
Courtesy Ivan the Troll
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Government agencies and the civilian disarmament industrial complex apparently are still under the impression that it’s not too late to stop the signal. That they can still somehow stuff the 3D gun toothpaste back in the tube.

A recent article at The Regulatory Review posits some of the latest ways the gun control industry might accomplish their goal of preventing individuals from using ever-cheaper and more accessible 3D printing technology to produce their own firearms at home. An activity — much to their chagrin — which is still perfectly legal in most states.

Here’s one particularly fun signal-stopping idea: government appropriation and copyrighting of all electronic files for 3D printed guns.

First Amendment questions about restricting schematics for 3D-printed guns can be avoided by using copyright law, R Street Institute’s Charles Duan argues in Lawfare. Because the plastic gun digital schematic receives a copyright, he posits that the government could take ownership of that copyright under the Fifth Amendment’s Takings Clause, which allows the government to exercise its sovereign right to acquire private property for the public interest.

Duan outlines a scheme where the government, or a nonprofit organization to which the government transfers the copyright, could then sue the creator of the 3D-printer gun schematics to prevent them from distributing their own design. “Whether or not the government can stop distribution of the schematic directly, it likely can do so using copyright without violating the First Amendment,” he claims.

Duan cautions against this approach, however, acknowledging a government could turn copyright into a “general-purpose censorship tool.”

– Peter Jacobs, Hannah Pugh, and Jasmine Wang in Regulating Ghost Guns


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    • “…means that once created they will never go away!”

      What happens if someone is caught with child porn on their computer?

      Think along those lines regarding how a Leftist law could criminalize “Illegal computer firearm file possession”.

      This is why control of the SCOTUS is *critical* to freedom.

      Imagine a SCOTUS where Scalia was replaced by Kagan 2, Kennedy was replaced by Sotomayor 2, and Ginsburg was replaced by a 45-year-old Ginsburg clone.

      That’s exactly where we would have been if Hillary was up for re-election right now. WE came *that close* to losing gun rights forever…

      • After a mass shooting, when they find the files on the murderer’s computer, they can add a copyright infringement charge to the murder charges. HUGE deterrent!!!

      • What happens if someone is caught with child porn on their computer?

        This is why you encrypt your gun files man. Then tell the feds to go clear some Antifa scum from the street and stop worrying about alleged gun files of peaceful people going about their daily lives.

        • This.

          There is no substitute for full drive encryption, and keeping sensitive stuff in a virtual drive on top of that. You can stack virtual drives inside virtual drives as many times as you like, each with it’s own encryption standard and password.

          If you want to defeat table attacks easily, open your character map and grab something from the unicode table. Now you force your attacker to either A: know of a software / encryption flaw, which even if one existed for one standard, it’s unlikely to exist for several standards. Although the attacker would first have ti identify what standard and software was used in the first place. B: use a pure brute-force / entropy attack. Good luck if someone used a keyfile or password padding, which is just filler.

    • Exactly. The government could seize ownership and copyright of all computer viruses too – but that isn’t going to happen.

  1. This is a curious legal approach. What might happen if it is applied elsewhere?

    Could the government – of course, all in the name of safety – take over the copyright or trademark of a alcoholic beverage (my quick Googling indicates both mechanisms are available for this industry; I learned something new today!) and prevent the original holder from producing it?

    What about an automotive design? Some portion of cell phone hardware? Or software of any type at all?

    I suspect this would quickly become a mess that no one would want to be involved in.

  2. This is utterly laughable.

    Are any of these gasbags acquainted with how reality works? Have they looked around to see how many copyrighted works of music, movies, etc. are bootlegged on the ‘net all the time?

    • Sure they can.

      Are you aware of the RIAA’s lawsuits for millions of dollars against individuals who shared some songs on services like Napster, Kazaa, Limewire etc? Over what? Copyright.

      What generally ended the widespread use of that “tool” was the artists, not the courts or RIAA backing off. And that was a private group out for money, not a government agency out to “promote safety”.

      Add in insatiable lust of government officials to the power of modern technology and this goes a hell of a lot further than you’d like to think.

      Or do you really believe you can hide from Google?

      • You can hide from Google. If you have any online presence at all, it is very difficult to hide from Google, but, yes, it can be done. Block all Google IP addresses at the router, don’t use any Google services, and be very careful of the information you put on the internet.

        I, for one, am not completely hidden from Google, but Google’s data on me is a heckuva lot less than most people. It takes work, and it requires decisions that most people are not willing to invest.

        • And as you openly admit, it’s not perfect. And that’s just a company. Not the government and certainly not a government agency looking for pelts to nail to their wall.

          And if it’s not perfect and what you’re doing is a serious crime which the government would like to flay you alive for…

          Under this kind of scheme a single crumb is enough to bring the alphabet bois after you. At that point you are fucked whether you’re smart enough to know it or not.

          When you start sharing files on a large enough scale to matter you can’t hide from the kind of tech that Google has. You don’t even have to make a mistake. Someone else along the chain can do that for you. And you won’t be up against Google in reality, you’ll be up against something worse.

        • They know who you are and have a profile built for you and vast amounts of your information you even if you have never touched the internet. Other people have and leaked or shared your information. Your information exists in public records, many available online. They already know who you are, what you do for a living, what you own, who you are related to, etc. without you having to tell them. Vast amounts of your information exists out there and these companies and other big data firms exist to suck that all up, store it away, analyze it, and sell it for a profit.

        • Oh yea, don’t forget any hope of digital privacy or protection is rapidly going away as quantum computing will be used right away for encryption breaking. That means that every encrypted thing you’ve ever done that is stored away somewhere, by someone, and believe me it is, will now be available for inspection.

          I will say, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, it is at least fortunate that if you aren’t doing anything wrong and quote “don’t have anything to hide” you’ll probably be ok. There just isn’t enough man power to and time to put the screws of the justice system to everyone. That’s just my opinion though.

      • Its not that hard to get around any of that these days. That battle has long been lost, because everybody in those circles moved all their data to places these companies and governments can’t touch and then laugh at them as they spread it with impunity.

        • A lot of very rich, smart and powerful people have believed that.

          Until their door got kicked in or a Predator found them.

          There’s a reason the smart terrorists, organized criminals and smugglers went back to low tech Cold War shit like couriers and dead-drops. Because it works and doesn’t get them caught or killed with the regularity that believing that they’re well hidden on the web does.

          Do people get away with things on the web? Sure. When they’re too small to care about and the web is large, they’re a small fish in a very large pond. But if they become interesting to the wrong people they’re boned.

          And that’s the point. Sure you can move these files around and be clever but under the kind of scheme this guy is discussing the people who do it on a scale large enough to matter (or on a very small scale but you make a mistake) will be made an example of and that will cow the vast majority of the rest.

          What remains is small enough not to be really worth discussing and sure as shit isn’t any kind of freedom.

    • “This is utterly laughable.

      Are any of these gasbags acquainted with how reality works?”

      It’s laughable *now*, but how would a 6-3 hard Left SCOTUS look at such a law? We would have had that if Hillary would have won, and you can’t deny it…

  3. So, it the ATF catches you a 3D printed gun, are they going to charge you with patent infringement or just turn you over to the FBI’s intellectual property crimes unit? Because you know the ATF makes up rules and regulations and applies the rules retroactive, but the FBI makes up evidence and then charges you with a crime based on that evidence….

  4. Those busy body democRat slave masters just cannot stop themselves from standing in the way of freedom. You can’t have this and you can’t have that like everyone is 5 years old. It’s past time to quit humoring the useful idiots Gun Control Zealots use for props and tell them all to stfu.

  5. “Duan cautions against this approach, however, acknowledging a government could turn copyright into a “general-purpose censorship tool.”

    No, that kind of power will be used as a general purpose censorship tool.

    Ultimately you can’t hide from the algorithms that find this kind of thing. How do you think YouTube demonetizes stuff so fast? Sure there’s a message that says it was “manually reviewed” but there are many cases where one is forced to ask “How did they decide to manually review that video out of the millions uploaded on that day?”

    They sure as shit didn’t view them all. Part of that process is, and has been for years at this point, automated to bring “questionable content” to the attention of a reviewer.

    It’s almost like no one remembers what happened to certain end users of Napster, and the tech that made that possible was many generations back from what we have today.

    No, you can’t stop the signal but you can sue the ever-loving-fuck out of the people that act as repeaters and use them as an example to the masses, like crucifying the survivors at the end of the Third Servile War. And that’s what will happen. Especially once Karen starts turning in her neighbors. Which will happen. S/he already reports or attempts to publicly shame people for Covid-restriction violations.

    Pumping up fear via fear-p o r n is a great way to get support for dictatorial schemes and regimes.

  6. This is all a moot point. If SHTF after the election the ATF and FBI will have much bigger fish to fry which may include keeping their heads down. Once the blood lust takes over No Bureaucrat will be safe.

  7. Imagine thinking that copyright actually stops material from being distributed on the internet.

    Also, when using the takings clause, the motivation behind the taking will come up. “Oh you’re seizing that copyright as a cutesy way to prevent distribution of content you don’t like? Still a 1A violation.”

  8. You can still buy full autos and rocket launchers off the black market, and they think they can stop the distribution of cad files, just sayin

    • The game they would, and do, play is found in the Pareto principle.

      20% of the work gets 80% of the results. When the results are infringement and they’re 80% effective it doesn’t matter really matter that much what the “outlaws” do because they do it in the closet away from the eyes of others and public perception is what matters.

      And if you have to do it in the closet are you really free to do it? No. You’re not. At best you’re a high school kid puffing a joint in the broom closet and chuckling that you got one over on “the man”.

      The point of this kind of thing is NOT that it’s 100% effective. It’s that catching a few of the right people and nailing them to a cross in public has most of the desired chilling effect on enough of the rest of the population and at that point, when most people are too frightened to exercise a right in public, does the rest really matter? No, not really. Control has been mostly established in a single stroke. Mopping up is what remains. Sure some will resist. Jews did in Poland, hell there’s even a few movies about it. One even staring James Bond. But ultimately were they going to win on their own? Are you? Are you and I? Are a few of us going to #resist and overcome? No. We’ll be fed to the lions in front of a crowd roaring its approval or, at best, get away with something we can’t talk about.

      How many people do you know with illegal machine guns? That NFA is actually pretty effective at corralling the behavior of the general public isn’t it? Doesn’t much matter for gangsters but… what percentage of the population are they? And do you really support bangers just because they ignore the NFA’s infringement on their rights? Do you hang with them because they’re so pro-2A? Are they even pro-2A in many regards? Are you prepared to voice public support for a bunch of criminals who get caught with *illegal* MGs?

      And if you got busted with an illegal giggle switch how many people would support you? A few to be sure. Some of us would prattle on about rights and the virtue of ethical government and such but it wouldn’t help your ass while you went to prison and the vast majority of people would be happy to see you go up the river. Because unregistered machine guns are bad and only bad people have unregistered machineguns (or thoughts or files) and bad things should happen to bad people, right?

      Shit dude, you’ve got people here who think your ass going to jail for carrying some greenbacks is totes cool because no one actually carries more than [insert personal preference for amount here] much cash and if you do it you MUST be up to no good.

      • “How many people do you know with illegal machine guns? That NFA is actually pretty effective at corralling the behavior of the general public isn’t it?”

        Yup, apply the NFA model to digital file possession. With child porn Federal prison sentences for good measure.

        Anyone who says Trump hasn’t done a damn thing about gun rights is conveniently ignoring the current political balance of the SCOTUS. Because you can bet your ass a 6-3 balance Leftist high court would find a “Compelling public interest” in outlawing CAD files. We came *that close* to that very scenario if Hillary was the one up for re-election in a week…

  9. ….um.


    About U.S. Government Works

    U.S. government creative works are usually produced by government employees as part of their official duties. These works include writings, images, videos, and computer code. A government work is generally not subject to copyright in the U.S. Unless the work falls under an exception, anyone may, without restriction under U.S. copyright laws:

    Reproduce the work in print or digital form

    Create derivative works

    Perform the work publicly

    Display the work

    Distribute copies or digitally transfer the work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending


    • Even though owned by the government, these probably would not be government works, because they wouldn’t have been created by government employees within the scope of their employment. The US govt does own copyrights – just not for works created by its employees.

      I outline the real copyright problem below.

  10. It’s a novel approach, I’ll give them that. But the end result is that it’s still a violation of the First Amendment. Any court willing to entertain this notion would have to grapple with the fact it could be used for any sort of published material whatsoever, from gun plans to music to newspaper articles. The legal levers employed aren’t the point, it’s the substance, not the form, that matters. It still boils down to government censoring speech based on some vague “public interest” test, and that has failed over and over and over again. It fails whether you use copyright laws, obscenity laws, import/export controls, incitement, interstate commerce, whatever you want.

  11. Most DEFINITELY *NOT* a stupid post! It’s critical for us to be aware of the lengths the anti-freedom folks would go, and what their tactics and strategies might be.

  12. There are plenty of files available as public domain that don’t have copyright or an owner to seize from. Unless the government were offering ridiculously high compensation, I’d expect most copyright holders to release them as public domain or transfer ownership to somebody else as a big game of legal keepaway. Even if the government get the copyright to the file, it doesn’t have anything to do with the final product, which needs patent or trademark protection, which 1911s and ARs don’t have. Facts aren’t copyrightable, and the same physical description can be put into a new file. If the feds pay significant money, I’d start churning out those files night and day.

    International file sharing makes a mockery of copyright enforcement. Peer-to-peer file sharing, like torrents, don’t have a single file or server to take down. They could snoop those connections to see what you’re downloading unless you”re encrypting your traffic and running through a foreign VPN or tor. DCMA takedown notices can be ignored be foreign servers and citizens. Many millions of people break copyright (and other laws) this way every day. So few get caught and taken to court that it’s like getting stuck by lightning and not a serious disincentive.

    • These laws were made for business, not to stop someone from making something for his own use. It is not illegal to copy music from a licensed copy that you own for your own use(like we did in the 70s and 80s, putting our vinyl recordings on cassettes so we could listen in our cars, keeping the original recording in good shape).
      Who is to say when you received the plans(that are now public domain)? I don’t think that would fly in our courts, even here in Ca.

  13. As we all know, once it’s(information) out on the Internet, it’s out there forever…
    So, by all means seize ownership and copyright, that’s not going to make it go away, just go underground…

  14. Dumb stuff. There is no such thing as the ability, no matter the day dreaming and science fiction level fantasy thinking, to control or regulate 3D CAD files. The suggestion reveals an extreme level of ignorance on how the internet works, how computers work, the pervasive nature of social media, all of it. Such bans never worked on books printed on paper, not even in the worst cases of repressive dystopias mass collection and burning of books.

    You cannot burn away a file on a planet where billions of humans can back it up, share it, improve it and send out their own version, in countless countries, from humans of all ages.

    It’s both a technology thing and a human thing. Neither of which will comply with some nitwits daydreams.

    • On this issue, enuf, I will actually agree with you.

      Laws made by those who don’t understand the subject of the laws. Sounds familiar?

  15. If you sue for damages, then you’re proving the copyrighted material had value and thus you didn’t give just compensation when you took it for public use. Supreme court has been really stupid on “just compensation” at times, but to my knowledge the government has never tried to actively make money off the stolen property before.

    Also: How well did suing for copyright infringement work for the RIAA?

  16. From the perspective of this old copyright practitioner, this idea simply won’t work legally (much less practically). It’s one of the silliest ideas I’ve seen in a while, so everybody calm down.

    First, the copyright owner of the 3d file could simply abandon any copyright before the government seizes it. Once the work is in the public domain via abandonment, there’s no resurrecting the copyright, period.

    Second, for such a seizure to be legal and effective, the government would have to identify and serve the author / copyright owner with process. Lotsa luck with that, especially where there are multiple owners of the same copyright (or they start assigning the copyrights willy-nilly to frustrate these efforts).

    Third, if the copyright owner is not a US citizen / resident, such a seizure may well run afoul of various US IP treaty obligations (Berne Convention, TRIPS, etc.).

    Fourth, even ignoring 1-3, such a use of the takings clause would likely push the law beyond the breaking point. This case would be Kelo v. City of New London on steroids, and I seriously doubt the SCt. would allow such an expansion; heck, with ACB about to be the SCt., Kelo’s days are probably numbered.

    Fifth, even ignoring 1-4, good luck ever proving infringement when the author won’t support the case. Any copyright case must prove that the plaintiff is the owner of a valid copyright (element one). Where the plaintiff has seized the copyright from the author, how interested is the author going to be in supporting the case? And without his cooperation, it’s going to be all but impossible to prove a prima facie case of element one.

    Sixth, even ignoring 1-5, if you establish infringement, what’s the remedy? Under eBay, injunctive relief is no longer automatic, and it is hard to get where there is an adequate remedy at law (and there usually is). The downloader using it for personal (noncommercial) use is unlikely to have made any kind of profits, so no infringer profits award. Copies of the copyrighted work were given away for free by the author prior to seizure, so market value of a license is basically zero . . . so no actual damages either. Statutory damages . . . maybe, but only where the infringement commenced after registration. Lotsa luck proving that, much less getting a jury to agree.

    And this doesn’t even get into the weeds of fair use defenses and a host of other issues.

    Like I said, whacky and unworkable idea.

    • “Like I said, whacky and unworkable idea.”

      Treat it the same as kiddie smut. Doesn’t really matter the source, it’s the simple *possession* of it you prosecute…

      • But that’s not copyright law.

        Merely having possession of a bootleg copy of something isn’t itself an act of copyright infringement — plaintiff has to prove that the defendant MADE an illegal copy, DISTRIBUTED an illegal copy, created an illegal derivative work, etc. And where the work was out there and being legally distributed before the government seized the copyright (i.e., downloads were completely legal prior to seizure), that’s gonna effectively be impossible to prove.

        There are specific laws (having zip to do with copyright) prohibiting the possession of kiddie porn. That’s not the case so with 3d gun plans.

    • How do you go about abandoning a copyright, esp post Berne?

      I think that you missed the big issue in regards to copyright, and that is functionality. Copyright protects original expression – but not functionality (which is where patents come in). When there is a mixture of elements potentially protected and not protected by a copyright, you have to engage in a process known as “filtration” to separate the two. Those elements that cannot be protected by your copyright include preexisting material, as well as functional elements. Under filtration, you remove or subtract the unprotected material, and then look at the remaining material for original expression.

      In terms of these files, you have possibly three things – engineering drawings of the guns, CAD representations of the drawings, and CAM instructions for making the gun in the drawings. The instructions for making the gun are highly functional, since they are used by machines to mill (etc) the firearms. And the graphic and CAD drawings are similarly functional, since they can be utilized to generate the instructions, or used directly to make the gun by hand. What could potentially have some copyright protection might be in the design of the underlying gun. You can ornament functional devices (etc) and that ornamentation could possibly be considered original expression (e,g. the scrollwork on high end firearms). But here, there is no real ornamentation. All you have left is functionality. And after filtering out the functional aspects and elements, there is likely nothing left that might be considered original expression, and, thus, there is probably no (US) copyright in the files in question.

  17. I’ve been an engineer for 10+ years, and I can do the same exact drawings with a compass, ruler, protractor, and French curve. Samuel Colt, John Moses Browning, and Hiram Maxim all died in the early 1900s, long before computers were invented. They all used these exact types of primitive tools to design everything from revolvers to machine guns.

    If you have a hack saw, a dremel tool, and a drill press, you have more tools than they had in the 1800s. If you have a welder, that’s even better.

    Even in the 1970s, a 16 MB computer needed 5 entire floors of vacuum tubes (aka caveman transistors) in order to run (By comparison, the original Pentium 4 Processor, which the Blue Man Group advertised about 20 years ago, had about 42 million -160 million transistors in it.)

    We all know how many guns were designed and built prior to 1970, and the last major change was the Glock 17, which was designed and prototyped in 1981. All subsequent designs have largely been balances of ergonomics, concealability, accuracy, and reliablility.

    As the saying goes, you can’t stop the signal, and how would they know anyway? Having too many arbitrary laws leads to rampant disregard for those laws. If they can’t even control Portland or Seattle, they certainly can’t control all of us.

    • “ All subsequent designs have largely been balances of ergonomics, concealability, accuracy, and reliablility.”

      See my above comment about the noncopyritability of functional aspects of material constructs. Under “filtration”, you remove the functional aspects (as well as pre’existing material, etc), and then look at the remainder for original expression. It might be possible to find such in the selection and arrangement of functional (or preexisting, etc) aspects or portions of the work, but that would typically be a very steep uphill battle.

  18. A law/regulation, once established, is effective immediately, and until overturned by the courts. A law/regulation may have only the purpose of “pushing the boundaries”, to see what happens. Float an idea masquerading as a law, then tailor the details so as to avoid repeal, yet fit nicely into the new boundaries established by the courts. Create a law to be used as a bargaining chip to ensure conviction on a different charge.

    Government bureaucrats aren’t totally stupid. They are extremely cunning and sly. They are relentless, and generally remorseless as well. They just keep coming. The danger is always below the calm surface. They can be driven to great treachery when one of their schemes is shown to be lacking.

    Governments come and go. The bureaucracy is forever.

  19. As has already been mentioned, why bother with copyright law, when the mechanism is already in place to prosecute for felony possession, same as they do with child pornography.

    • Sorry. Not that easy. There is no law preventing possession of pictures of any guns. I know that I have copies of engineering drawings for machine guns, such as the original M16. Nothing illegal there. The ATF doesn’t have the legal authority to do anything beyond regulating ownership or possession of actual firearms. Not depictions of the guns but the guns themselves. Congress could purport to give them that authority, but that will very likely be unavailing, under the 1st Amdt.

  20. Guys, I don’t understand what all the pearl clutching is about! I’m sure there is already sufficient excuse to be found in the commerce clause so no need to worry about any of this coming to be!


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