"Wiki Weapon" Founder Wants to Build the Google of 3-D Printed Guns

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
March 11 2013 6:05 PM

"Wiki Weapon" Founder Wants to Build the Google of 3-D Printed Guns

No one has yet designed a fully operable 3-D printed gun, but it is possible to print gun parts such as the lower receiver of an AR-15.
No one has yet designed a fully operable 3-D printed gun, but Defense Distributed and others have figured out how to print working gun parts such as the lower receiver of an AR-15.

Screenshot / YouTube

The Texas law student behind a project to build a fully 3-D printed gun has a new venture: a search engine for gun parts and other 3-D printable contraband.

Will Oremus Will Oremus

Will Oremus is Slate's senior technology writer.

In Austin this evening, Cody Wilson of the nonprofit Defense Distributed is announcing a new, for-profit startup called Defcad, which he envisions as a repository for 3-D printing blueprints that established 3-D printing sites won’t touch. He’s hoping to raise $100,000 over the next 30 days to make Defcad.com a reality.

Advertisement

The site would build on the makeshift database that Wilson and co. built at Defcad.org in response to Brooklyn-based MakerBot’s December decision to remove all designs for firearm components from the Thingiverse, its popular online marketplace for 3-D printed goods. Those included a blueprint for the lower receiver of an AR-15, billed as a way for people to put together a working gun without having to obtain a license.

“It’s still legal in America to make guns and have gun parts, but Thingiverse took those files down from its site,” Wilson told me. “So when we get to the interesting battles that are yet to come—DMCA takedown requests, physical DRM—we know those people will fold. That’s why we want to build this infrastructure early. And search is a viable way to do it.”

Wilson is talking about the intellectual property battles that arise when people publish designs for 3-D printable versions of copyrighted objects. He says Defcad won’t censor any blueprints that come its way, and won’t respond to takedown requests from rights-holders under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. He believes that openness could make his site a popular alternative to the Thingiverse, where you can download plans for a “fight the power” pencil holder but not for a weapon—nor a Penrose Triangle that was the subject of a copyright infringement claim in February. (Thingiverse complied with a DMCA takedown notice for the triangle design, an episode that prompted it to draw up a copyright policy.)

Defcad will also happily host blueprints for more benign 3-D printed objects, Wilson said. “It’s not going to be just a bazaar of controversial things.”

Amid the national gun control debate, some lawmakers have called for a ban on 3-D printed gun parts, which they fear could undermine attempts at regulation by allowing people to print weapons in their own living rooms. Wilson says he’s aware of the potential for misuse—“as the technology advances, someone will be injured, someone will be killed,” he told Popular Science recently—but he believes that defending and expanding the right to bear arms is worth the cost.

In a video pitching the new search engine (see below), Wilson plays a clip of President Obama hailing 3-D printing as “the next revolution in manufacturing” in his latest State of the Union address. Over the video, Wilson intones: “Talk is nice. Platitudes are easy. But a revolution… means a revolution.”

Last year, Wired’s Danger Room blog named Wilson one of the “15 Most Dangerous People in the World.” He certainly isn’t afraid to play the part of the freedom fighter. The irony is that, by framing the fight in such combative terms, Wilson may be making the case for 3-D printing regulation more powerfully than any anti-gun activist could.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Talking White

Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.

Hong Kong’s Protesters Are Ridiculously Polite. That’s What Scares Beijing So Much.

The One Fact About Ebola That Should Calm You: It Spreads Slowly

Natasha Lyonne Is Coming to the Live Culture Gabfest. Are You?

A Jaw-Dropping Political Ad Aimed at Young Women, Apparently

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:05 PM Today in GOP Outreach to Women: You Broads Like Wedding Dresses, Right?
Crime

Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.

Music

How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

Tattoo Parlors Have Become a Great Investment

This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century

Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 8:34 AM This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century To undertake a massively ambitious energy project, you don’t need the government anymore.
Behold
Oct. 1 2014 6:59 PM EU’s Next Digital Honcho Says Celebs Who Keep Nude Photos in the Cloud Are “Stupid”
  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 2 2014 11:01 AM It Wasn’t a Secret A 2013 inspector general report detailed all of the Secret Service’s problems. Nobody cared.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 2 2014 9:19 AM Alibaba’s Founder on Why His Company Is Killing It in China
  Life
The Vault
Oct. 2 2014 11:07 AM Mapping 1890 Manhattan's Crazy-Quilt of Immigrant Neighborhoods
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 5:11 PM Celebrity Feminist Identification Has Reached Peak Meaninglessness
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 2 2014 10:36 AM How Bad Will Adam Sandler’s Netflix Movies Be?
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 2 2014 11:01 AM Surge Pricing Is Not Price Gouging
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Oct. 2 2014 9:49 AM In Medicine We Trust Should we worry that so many of the doctors treating Ebola in Africa are missionaries?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?