“The Liberator Code Book: An Exercise in Freedom of Speech” was recently banned by Amazon. The 584-page book contains 3-D printing blueprints for a plastic pistol called the Liberator. The computer code, originally published by Defense Distributed, was banished from the web after a federal judge issued a restraining order July 31st, prohibiting the dispersal of the highly-sought after computer code.
Just one day after the federal judge issued the temporary restraining order, the computer code appeared for sale in a book on Amazon.com. Amazon did not waste time. The book was banned immediately on August 1st, as countless transactions were blocked. Defiantly, author C.J. Awelow says, “code is speech” and any proceeds from the book sales “will be used to fight for free speech and the right to bear arms.”
An Amazon spokesperson said the book was removed for “violating our content guidelines.” Amazon did not divulge which guidelines were violated. Amazon is in solidarity with more than a dozen states, which believe that the computer code is a public safety risk. After all, the code could be used to skirt various gun regulations, allowing anyone with a 3-D printer and the know-how to manufacture a plastic gun without a serial number.
Defense Distributed believes that the computer code is free speech, protected under the First Amendment. The blueprints are harmless, in and of themselves. The actions people take upon reading the code are not the fault of the code’s publisher. Defense Distributed is not liable if someone uses their computer code to violate statutory law. Whether the code is available for free online or whether it is sold in a book, it is indeed, just speech. “We don’t err on the side of censorship in this country,” said Defense Distributed’s founder, Cody Wilson, speaking with The Washington Post.
U.S. District Judge Robert S. Lasnik will have to decide whether to rule in favor of the states and issue a permanent injunction against Defense Distributed. It is highly implausible that the speech will be blocked entirely. There’s no way to prove that the computer code breaks gun laws in any state. The speech itself cannot be blamed for illegal possession of firearms in any state. In order for the states to do anything, new laws will have to be proposed to regulate the actual 3-D printing of guns.
“They would have to make the argument that the speech itself is essentially the device,” says Adam Theirer of George Mason University’s Mercatus Center. “Nothing is stopping them from regulating firearms. But the underlying speech is not in their purview. There has to be a distinction made between the speech and the byproduct of speech.” (Related: Authoritarian Left now celebrates the extermination of free speech, they once claimed to defend.)
If the presiding judge can prove that the computer code is not speech at all, then the states could get their way and banish the computer code from the internet. U.S. District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel has already asserted that computer code is simply language. “Like music and mathematical equations, computer language is just that, language, and it communicates information either to a computer or to those who can read it.”
Currently, Amazon has no right to discriminate against the publishers of the book “The Liberator Code Book: An Exercise in Freedom of Speech.” The information it contains is free speech and there is no shred of evidence that the publisher violated any of Amazon’s terms or conditions. Amazon should be held liable for its modern day acts of segregation and book burning. No internet gatekeeper should have the power to discriminate against anyone's free speech or the color of their ideas.
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