The US government has demanded designs for a 3D-printed gun be taken offline.
The order to remove the blueprints for the plastic gun comes after they were downloaded more than 100,000 times.
The US State Department wrote to the gun’s designer, Defense Distributed, suggesting publishing them online may breach arms-control regulations.
Although the files have been removed from the company’s Defcad site, it is not clear whether this will stop people accessing the blueprints.
They were being hosted by the Mega online service and may still reside on its servers.
Also, many links to copies of the blueprints have been uploaded to file-sharing site the Pirate Bay, making them widely available. The Pirate Bay has also publicized its links to the files via social news site Reddit suggesting many more people will get hold of the blueprints.
The Office of Defense Trade Controls Compliance wrote to Defense Distributed founder Cody Wilson demanding the designs be “removed from public access” until he could prove he had not broken laws governing shipping weapons overseas by putting the files online and letting people outside the US download them.
“We have to comply,” Cody Wilson told Forbes magazine in an interview.
But he added the State Department’s fears were ungrounded, as Defense Distributed had been set up specifically to meet requirements that exempted it from the arms-control regulations.
Cody Wilson welcomed the US government’s intervention, saying it would highlight the issue of whether it was possible to stop the spread of 3D-printed weapons.
Unlike conventional weapons, the printed gun – called the Liberator by its creators – is made out of plastic on a printer. Many engineering firms and manufacturers use these machines to test prototypes before starting large-scale production.
While desktop 3D printers are becoming more popular, Defense Distributed used an industrial 3D printer that cost more than $7,500 to produce its gun. This was able to use high-density plastic that could withstand and channel the explosive force involved in firing a bullet.
To make the Liberator, Cody Wilson had to get a license to make and sell the weapon from the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
The Bureau said any American could make a gun for their own use, even on a 3D printer, but selling it required a license.
Cody Wilson, who describes himself as a crypto-anarchist, said the project to create a printed gun and make it widely available was all “about liberty”.