When Your Hobby Breaks the Law

When Your Hobby Breaks the Law (Editorial)

Have your broken the law with your hobby? You may not even know if your hobby is illegal. That boundary between the lawful and illegal aspect of many hobbies has thinned in recent years.

Is 3D printing game miniatures illegal?

I’ve written about the controversy that 3D printing game miniatures could be grounds for piracy and copyright infringement (read here). 3D printing has disrupted the way we think about the recreation and sharing of artwork and other intellectual properties.

When Your Hobby Breaks the Law
Imperial Assault anyone? What is this? The fascist Empire…resist!

“Using 3D printers, you can now pirate board games.”

Based on conversation, 3D printing game models is certainly a gray area. Depending on your perspective (see a reddit forum), it might be okay to 3D print an object that another artist created–as long as its for your personal use and not for sale.

First Arrest with 3D Printed Gun

I’ve written about 3D printing elsewhere for fun (game models and custom miniature bases), but they never touched upon the problems with this technology.

In Waterbury, Connecticut (USA), police caught a man with a plastic 3D printed gun.

When Your Hobby Breaks the Law
Jeremy Stevens didn’t have a gun permit for a 3D printed gun, according to a police statement (Image from Waterbury Police)

Can You 3D Print A Gun At Your Local Library?

Jeremy Stevens, a 36 years old, was arrested by police on drug charges and illegal weapons possession.

It wasn’t that the man had two bags of heroin on his person that surprised me. No, it was the 3D printed gun with a live 0.22 caliber round in the barrel. The homemade gun was capable of shooting someone.

And, the guy was near a school. So, what must have looked like a plastic toy could have actually functioned as a real firearm.

When Your Hobby Breaks the Law

“Ghost Gun”

Although the plans for a 3D printed gun were posted online years ago in 2013 (interesting story see here), the topic has continued to gain traction. 3D printers are everywhere. They are affordable and easy-to-use, and getting more and more reliable.

A lethal firearm in a day and age when mass shootings are commonplace is now within easy reach of anyone with a 3D printer.

Sad to say, it’s true.

They are called “Ghost Guns” because they are untraceable, lacking serial numbers or any clear way to control their whereabouts. Technology has reached a tipping point, and I can’t see laws catching up to these problems.

Certainly, I’ve heard stories about the ad nauseam controversy of copyright infringement with 3D printed items that look (and function) like the original product–a simple Google search reveals a ton of more insight on this.

Now, a 3D printed gun has its limits. Because of the design, the material vulnerabilities of fused-laminated plastic, a 3D printed gun that you can print on a consumer printer isn’t going to fire more than a single bullet at a time before a reload. No mass shootings with a 3D printed gun…yet.

Ugh.

Which does makes me think, what the heck was Mr. Stevens thinking? What are you going to do with a single bullet?

Oh wait, he did have drugs on him.

Here’s the announcement that spawned this article’s topic (see original Hartford Courant news article).


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1 thought on “When Your Hobby Breaks the Law (Editorial)”

  1. I’ve certainly infringed the copyright laws of some nation or other for personal use in various ways. Haven’t almost all of us? Though the “personal use” clause makes some things legal in various jurisdictions when they aren’t in others. Mine being the most pertinent, of course.

    If you buy a recast model are you breaking the law? What if you bought it from eBay from a different country with different laws? What if you didn’t know it was recast? What about 3-D printed accoutrements that copy someone else’s IP designs? What about when those designs are really just slight variations on un-copyrightable geometric patterns or heraldic icons?

    So I don’t worry about it. I don’t expect the Games Workshop Police nor the Victoria Police to turn up on my doorstep, armed with their 3-D printed guns anytime soon.

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