New South Wales Bans Possessing Knowledge

3D printers have ensured gun control laws will continue to become less enforceable. How can a government enforce a ban on something anybody can download a schematic for and print in their own home? It can’t. But that’s not going to stop the government of New South Wales from trying:

Possessing files that can be used to 3D print firearms will soon be illegal in New South Wales after new legislation, passed last week by state parliament, comes into effect.

Among the provisions of the Firearms and Weapons Prohibition Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 (PDF) is an amendment to the Weapons Prohibition Act 1998 stating that a person “must not possess a digital blueprint for the manufacture of a firearm on a 3D printer or on an electronic milling machine.”

The maximum penalty is 14 years’ jail.

The provision does not apply to any person with a licence to manufacture firearms or the police.

‘Possession’ is defined as “possession of a computer or data storage device holding or containing the blueprint or of a document in which the blueprint is recorded” or “control of the blueprint held in a computer that is in the possession of another person (whether the computer is in this jurisdiction or outside this jurisdiction)”.

Enforcing this would require knowing every file on every person’s computer and knowing every purchase every person has made. Even banning 3D printers or requiring they be registered wouldn’t make this law enforceable because schematics exist for 3D printers that can print 3D printer parts and be built at home.

With that said, this is yet another law that should encourage people to utilize strong cryptographic tools. Ensure every data storage device you possess is encrypted. Only access websites through encrypted connections. And use anonymity tools like Tor to download any potentially illegal data (which is all data). Laws against possessing information requires the authorities be capable of finding out whether or not you’ve learned something. So long as you can conceal that from them they cannot enforce such prohibitions.