3D-Printer Manufacturer Creates Software Filter To Prevent Firearm Printing
from the the-State-Dept's-new-favorite-manufacturer dept
Although 3D printing does present the potential to wreak havoc in a variety of areas, most concern seems to be aimed at homemade guns. Ever since Defense Distributed printed up a functioning weapon, legislators have been searching for a way to shut this down.
The first reaction was perhaps the stupidest: the State Department pretty much ordered the internet to delete all gun-printing files, claiming that distribution is a violation of export control laws. Once the impossible had been requested, everyone went back to doing what they were doing, including uploading the files to The Pirate Bay. Others decided to remix existing plans, adding their own twists to Defense Distributed’s model.
The next reaction wasn’t much smarter. Legislators at the state and city levels in New York began pushing through bills aimed at another impossibility: banning 3D-printed guns. New York City’s doomed-to-fail legislation contains a handful of unintentionally hilarious requirements.
This bill aims to make it illegal for people to produce any part of a firearm using a 3D printer unless they are licensed gunsmiths. Also, each weapon must be registered with the police within a 72-hour period of being manufactured.
OK. Let us know how that goes, especially the second part. The state’s bill goes even further, but is equally unenforceable.
State Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal introduced the bill for New York State on May 30. Her legislation seeks to make it a felony for the manufacture, sale, or use of firearms and ammunition magazines made with 3D printers.
With all of this doing absolutely nothing to stop the creation of 3D-printed guns, a Danish 3D-printing firm has stepped up to do something (marginally) more effective.
[Create It REAL], which sells 3D printer component parts and software, recently announced that it has come up with a firearm component detection algorithm that will give 3D printers the option to block any gun parts. The software compares each component a user is trying to print with a database of potential firearms parts, and shuts down the modeling software if it senses the user is trying to make a gun.
This could be potentially effective in limited application, but even Create It REAL admits its software will likely be easily circumvented, as it looks for very specific “firearm characteristics.” Instead, it aims to prevent people from “accidentally” printing out a gun, something aimed more at deflecting liability than actually stopping gun manufacturing.
Cody Wilson of Defense Distributed says this feature is essentially useless. No one’s going to “accidentally” print a gun.
“Every gun piece is printed separately then assembled and often modified,” Wilson said. “Further, even single piece receiver prints take hours upon hours and need to be babysat. You can’t ‘oops’ this.”
Create It REAL’s anti-gun-printing safeguard isn’t much more than a way to mitigate liability both for the makers of 3D printers and 3D printing companies. This add-on, no matter how easily bypassed, will probably help the company score some points in the eyes of the State Department and other watchful government entities. This built-in limitation also likely appeals much more to IP holders looking to prevent future duplication of their products.
Still, the technology has raised some alarm bells among libertarians, raising the specter of a possible future in which 3D printers are DRMed, limiting consumers to a specific set of uses determined by the seller.
It’s probably still several years down the road to 3D printer ubiquity, but it’s not hard to see a new strain of copyright protection being built in to future printers. If the threat of “free” duplication is deemed large enough, a push towards some sort of “universal DRM” could soon be underway. To this point, the government has shown little hesitation to use its power to protect certain industries, and this won’t be any exception. If the specifics of preventing certain items from being printed proves too difficult (or too easily circumvented), the “DRM” may instead force printer owners to use only “approved” files. Whichever way it goes, efforts like this one will prove only marginally more effective than poorly thought out bans and legislation.