US District Judge Robert Lasnik found in his Monday ruling that the plaintiffs were likely to succeed based on their argument that the Department of State, in allowing for a modification of federal export law, had unwittingly run afoul of a different law, the Administrative Procedure Act.
In essence, the judge found that because the Department of State did not formally notify Congress when it modified the United States Munitions List, the previous legal settlement that Defense Distributed struck with the Department of State—which allowed publication of the files—is invalid.
As Ars has reported, Defense Distributed is the Texas-based company involved in a years-long lawsuit with the Department of State over publication of those files and making them available to foreigners. The company runs DEFCAD, perhaps the best-known online repository of gun files.
After a surprising June 2018 settlement with the Department of Justice seemingly ended that five-year legal battle with the Department of State, DEFCAD reposted the files on July 27, a few days earlier than the company had initially said it would restore them.
With the settlement, the feds essentially agreed to change the relevant export laws. Defense Distributed would be allowed to publish, the DOJ would pay $40,000 of DD’s legal fees, and the case would be over. The Second Amendment Foundation announced the settlement on July 10.
Judge Lasnik ruling today only briefly addressed the fact that the files are already available on numerous sites, including Github, The Pirate Bay, and more. These files have circulated online since their original publication back in 2013. (Recently, new mirrors of the files have begun to pop up.)
“It is not clear how available the nine files are: the possibility that a cybernaut with a BitTorrent protocol will be able to find a file in the dark or remote recesses of the Internet does not make the posting to Defense Distributed’s site harmless,” he wrote.
Defense Distributed’s founder, Cody Wilson, declined Ars’ request for comment.