On Tuesday, a federal judge in Seattle, Washington issued a temporary injunction against Cody Wilson, whose nonprofit Defense Distributed intended to upload plans for a number of firearms that could be created using a 3D printer.
From The New York Times,
[A]n abrupt reversal by the State Department last month appeared to finally clear the path for Mr. Wilson to usher in what his website calls “the age of the downloadable gun.”
That age, he said, would start Wednesday when he would begin uploading the instructions. But faced with dire warnings about an imminent risk to public safety from alarmed public officials across the country, a federal judge in Seattle on Tuesday evening abruptly granted a temporary nationwide injunction blocking Mr. Wilson from moving forward with his plans.
Following the injunction, a number of mirror sites appeared, making the information available once again.
While the policy and constitutional implications of this issue are well outside the scope of the captured economy, the fact that Wilson posted his designs online for free is an interesting piece of evidence on the necessity (or lack thereof) of intellectual property for innovation.
Wilson is a self-described anarchist. Say what you will about his politics, but his intention to proliferate his innovative designs are clearly motivated by his personal beliefs rather than a desire to profit (to my knowledge, Wilson or any other budding printable-gun designer has not attempted to patent their designs).
For all the heat this issue is likely to generate, Cody Wilson’s actions provide some light by showing that intellectual monopoly is, at least in this case, not necessary for innovation.