The courts have routinely found that data is a form of speech. As a result, the Constitution should protect it. In other words, it should be free.
The state of New Jersey, however, doesn’t buy that, especially when the “speech” in question concerns files that show how to build guns.
Now, a number of groups are filing a lawsuit to block the state’s attempt to criminalize the sharing of those files.
The Firearms Policy Coalition, Firearms Policy Foundation, Second Amendment Foundation, Calguns Foundation, California Association of Federal Firearms Licensees, and Defense Distributed petitioned the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against state attorney general Gurbir Grewal’s threat to prosecute the company hosting CodeIsFreeSpeech.com. The site is where a number of gun blueprints had been available for download. The group has also filed for declaratory and injunctive relief.
“With a torrent of civil and criminal enforcement actions, Grewal is conducting a censorship campaign that expressly targets Defense Distributed’s publication of digital firearms information and expressly targets its audience,” the groups said in the complaint. “If anyone dares to share the information deemed illicit, Grewal swears that he ‘will come after you.’ This state official wants so desperately to abridge the Second Amendment’s right to bear Arms that he will do so by blatantly abridging the First Amendment’s freedom of speech.”
The lawsuit stems from a Feb. 2 takedown notice Grewal sent to Cloudflare, the company providing hosting to CodeIsFreeSpeech.com. In that notice, Grewal demands not only the removal of the gun blueprint files hosted on the site but the entire site.
“This is a notice to Cloudflare that you are serving files consisting of 3D printable firearms in violation of NJ Stat. Ann. § 2C:39-9 3(l)(2),” the notice read, according to the complaint. “These files are accessible via Cloudflare’s New Jersey datacenter. You shall delete all files described within 24 hours or we will be forced to press charges in order to preserve the safety of the citizens of New Jersey.”
If New Jersey had the authority to regulate speech, its authority to do so would exist only within its borders. What New Jersey’s doing is attempting to exert that authority well beyond those lines on the map. In other words, the state’s trying to make it so no one can access these files regardless of where they live.
Not that it matters.
By now, almost everyone interested in these files already has them or probably knows someone who has them. Hell, I don’t even own a 3D printer, and I’ve got all of them. I’ve got them in multiple locations for backups because, well, you never know. To quote the movie, “You can’t stop the signal.”
Those files are going to go all over New Jersey, and there’s not a damn thing the state can do to stop it.
But I also have a sneaking suspicion that the state is going to lose on this one when all else is said and done. As the website says, code is free speech, and it’s protected.
Tough nuggets, New Jersey, I’ll try not to hurt myself laughing at you.