Boing Boing’s Bong Debate

By on May 21st, 2010 in blog


Our post earlier this week describing Tom Matten’s “MakerBong” was picked up by BoingBoing. Now then, BoingBoing is a somewhat bigger blog than Fabbaloo, ahem, and a vigorous debate therefore emerged regarding the post’s idea – whether it’s the object or the design that matters when an illegal item is in question. Here are several comments we felt worthy of repeating:
Just wait until you can download programs to make your matter compiler spew out ecstasy pills and preloaded heroin syringes.
Felix Mitchell:
…it says that instructions on the use of an object can be used to determine whether its primary purpose is drug taking. So if you fabricate a bong and they find a Thingiverse web page in your browsing history which says “how to fab a bong for smoking weed” then you might be fucked.
What about a design for a working gun on Thingiverse? What if a person with a gun license makes one?
Just by tricking me into downloading an image of these plans, I’ve got one strike out of my three allowed infringements before I’m cut off the internet. Thanks for nothing, dood.
If plans for illegal objects were going to be unlawful, they would have been a long time in the case of firearms.
As any head shop employee will tell you: It’s not a bong. It’s a water pipe, and it’s for smoking tobacco and other legal herbs.
The question will have to be answered eventually, because eventually rapid prototyping machines will make it possible to bypass all sorts of current legal protections. When the difference between a design for a machine gun and the machine gun itself becomes nothing more than hitting “print”, we’ll have to rethink our system of banning the ownership of specific objects.
I suspect these will eventually be illegal, because they are eventually going to start banning plans for objects* and once that starts they’ll go after bongs. The objects I’m thinking of are not guns but rather patented designs. If the RIAA can get away with banning the data used to recreate their copyrighted goods, manufacturers are going to be able to get away with banning the data used to recreate their patented goods.
…Besides, 3D printers don’t make things that work; they make things that look like things that work. Just like most of the really low-cost stuff that’s made in China.
Roger Strong:
Suppose that a 3D mesh of a bong is illegal. What if the file is hosted in another country where it’s legal?
Would it be illegal to merely link to a library of 3D meshes, if one of those meshes happens to be illegal in your country?
Obviously, printing out a 3D model of Mohammed will get you attacked. What about merely hosting a 3D mesh, without printing it? Do you attack the original artist who created it, the web site owner, or the hosting company who owns the server?
It’s also possible they would argue that downloading (or obtaining by other means) the 3D plans is a step towards committing the crime of possessing/using/selling the paraphernalia.
And our favourite comment, from fnc:
“Dude, those plans belong to my cousin. He just asked me to let him store them on my server for a while.”

By Kerry Stevenson

Kerry Stevenson, aka "General Fabb" has written over 8,000 stories on 3D printing at Fabbaloo since he launched the venture in 2007, with an intention to promote and grow the incredible technology of 3D printing across the world. So far, it seems to be working!

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