The Journal of Peer Production - New perspectives on the implications of peer production for social change New perspectives on the implications of peer production for social change

Review A



1) Is the subject matter relevant?

This subject matter is relevant to the issue in two ways. First, it relays the physicality of creating controversial 3D printed objects, critiquing in terms of ‘materiel’ and legal standpoints. The former is often overlooked in the literature, while the latter is handled originally here between Canadian and US contexts. Second, it explores an interesting and novel analysis of, and framework for, regulatory issues and paths forward around 3D printing that bridges the context of law and society, and individual and context.


2) Is the treatment of the subject matter intellectually interesting? Are there citations of bodies of literature you think are essential to which the author has not referred?

Yes, the conceptual metaphor of ‘action landscape’ has merit, although some additional literature to compare it to are, indeed, essential.

Understanding the navigation of the action landscape through ‘(1) the interaction between the many factors and (2) the distinction between qualities of the actor and qualities of the landscape’ is interesting and provides novel analysis. The external/internal facets, as well as the notion of ascending to action contributes to the literature.

However, L. Lessig’s (PDF) thoughts on ‘what things regulate’, which he identifies as market, law, norms, and architecture, as making up regulatory environments (online) may be a salient starting point for literature to compare/contrast/critique the ‘action landscape’ to. Other than (arguably) code, Lessig’s message can be interpreted as focussed on the institutional(?); the author(s) seem to progress the role of actor and action, which could be an important contribution. Speculatively, is there ‘architecture’ of 3D Printing beyond it’s code?

As a small point, calling “laws, technological possibilities, economic considerations, brute effort, and cognitive abilities”, “constraining affordances” is interesting, but may stretch the usage of the term affordance. Do these afford action across the landscape, or are they affordances themselves?

If the authors do choose keep the language of affordances, which seems useful, they may wish to revisit the internal/external or actor/landscape divide; Can we speak of internal/external affordances?

3) Are there any noticeable problems with the author’s mean of validating assumptions or making judgments?

The article is very well argued, and there are a wide range of insightful analyses on the law, regulation and 3D printing. There are also some smaller issues that should be clarified.

p.10 “The key distinction between formal and natural constraints is that formal constraints have to be maintained. They require an investment of resources to construct, monitor, maintain, and enforce.” In the example previous this statement, with speed bumps and speed signs, I am confused: it seems that both speed humps and speed traps/signs (cameras, officers, etc.) require ‘resources to construct, monitor, maintain’, while enforcement, is only what becomes natural for speed humps (cf. court systems for tickets etc.)?

How does the internal factor of ‘ethics’, and the contextual factor of ‘norms’ relate? How can these categories be made more distinct, to justify the external/internal divide.

p.21 “RIAA has seen some long-term benefits that could be attributed to its litigation efforts—including their continued relevance under new economic models like iTunes. Their lawsuits probably decreased the amount of file sharing, may have dissuaded some casual downloaders, and may also have contributed to changing public perception of downloading” (emphasis mine) requires justification, citation or removal.

p. 22 “. Once plans could be shared over the internet, however, both the discoverability and deleterious effect of infringement grew enough to gain the attention of some patent holders and to present a real threat to DIYers” requires justification, citation or removal.

p. 16 “The first would target 3D printed guns, and the would apply to intellectual property. Emerging technologies “exist in legal and social gray areas, as we struggle to determine what role we want them to play in our lives and what level of regulation is necessary to define that role”. Although seemingly esoteric, the authors may wish to think about the Law of the Horse. Or, more accurately, that some legal scholars suggest that teaching, and implementing, specific law towards cyberspace, horses, or 3D Printing, may not be the way to go. See Frank H. Easterbrook (1996) arguing there is no such thing as law of the horse vs. our friend Lessig, arguing for (the teaching at least) of specific cyber-horse law. How does this debate apply to 3DP regulation?

The difference between the federal firearms license and US citizen rights to make their own guns might be of interest to readers confused about Cody Wilson and Defence Distributed.


4) Is the article well written?

The Article is well written with a few exceptions.

p.30 onward needs to be rewritten to expand the key numbered points, specify what is meant by such phrases as “seems like a bad idea” (for whom) and “guns 3D printers can currently make are not very good” (they are evil?), and clarify the value of how the ‘action landscape’ relates to regulatory paths presented towards the end.

As a knit pick or helpful nudge, the author(s)’ use of ‘prophylaxis’ may be incorrect – its medical connotation/etymology traces to preventative measures, and more generally – according to OED – a ‘precautionary action’. Its usage in this paper denotes the high cost of precision machining, which is not precautionary or even premeditated in the regulatory sense – rather, it is an economic/contextual barrier to entry of a market. Finally, although “disanalogy” exists as a word, much like the Liberator, it may be overvalued when called upon.


5) Are there portions of the article that you recommend to be shortened, excised or expanded?

See above re the conclusion expansion and clarification. The section on actually creating the Liberator might be shortened, as some of the details could be summarised to reduce length.

If more substantial cuts are required the authors may want to think about significantly compressing the intellectual property section from page 21-25, and skip directly to Penrose, with brief citations to the differences in IP from Weinberg etc. filling the gap for readers.


Review B


This paper is an innovative, engaged piece of work, which is worthy of publication. I would make a number of suggestions on how to improve this paper.

For such an interesting article, this paper has a rather dull and vague title. ‘Disrupting Law: The Prospects for Government Regulation of Emerging Technology’ is rather uninspiring. It would be unclear for a reader what the actual topic of the paper was. There are such a wide range of emerging technologies – from information technology and cloud computing to biotechnology and nanotechnology and stem cell research, and artificial intelligence, and neuroscience. It would not be clear to the reader that the paper concerned 3d printing and guns. The author should consider retitling the paper to a more specific formula, such as “Regulating The Liberator: 3D Printing and Guns.”

This paper provides an excellent account of Cody Wilson and his plans for the 3D printable ‘liberator’ pistol. The article provides a clear, analytical case study. This paper provides a useful intellectual framework with which to analyse the issue.

On the question of firearm regulation, the paper should offer a better account of US politics in respect of this topic. President Barack Obama has made a number of statements in this area. There is a need to give a sense of the polarised debate – before taking the reader into the area of 3D printing and guns.

In terms of intellectual property, this paper needs to go beyond the copyright vs patent law dichotomy. Other forms of intellectual property are in play – such as designs. Page 26 has a misspelling of “infringement” as “infringment”.

The paper needs to consider the issue of prohibitions in respect of patent law for inventions which are against the ‘ordre public and morality’ or are ‘contrary to law’. Some forms of military applications raise those particular questions. To the extent that there is regulation of 3D printing and guns, that could also have an impact upon the grant of patents.

The paper needs a bit more careful in its comparative analysis, especially as there is variability in legal regimes. In the legal analysis, I was not quite sure why Canada was a focal point as a jurisdiction. That needed to better explained. It would be worthwhile updating the article to take into account the recent controversy in Japan – which resulted in a man being arrested for possessing handguns made by a 3d Printer:

This article needs to engage with the work on 3D printing and the regulation of guns by Cory Doctorow:  His work is quite useful in analysing the discourses at play in the debate over 3D printing and the regulation of guns. This article should also engage more with the work of Public Knowledge on 3D printing and government regulation. Michael Weinberg has engaged in significant research in respect of such issues. Public Knowledge has also tracked the legislative debate over 3D printing and guns. The article cites Weinberg’s IP work – but not his engagement with the gun issue.

Stylistically, this article over-uses the royal “we”. The article uses “we” a large number of times in the article to the point where it becomes repetitive. There needs to be greater stylistic diversity on this issue.

References – The Weinberg is in full caps, and lacks a proper reference or hyperlink.