Here's a good example of technology moving faster than the law can keep pace with. Recently the internet has been a flurry ith news that the world's first 3D printed gun had been constructed and successfully fired a round of ammunition. The gun was developed by Defense Distributed, a small US company run by 25 year old Cody Wilson, a law student at the University of Texas.
Cody made waves by soon after making the plans for the gun available for free online, where anyone with access to a 3D printer could produce the weapon. A few years ago 3D printing was out of reach of individuals, requiring expensive equipment and advanced knowledge of CAD, however as with all technology it has progressed to a level where a printer is affordable to a large number of people and many 3D models can downloaded and easily printed.
This meant that printing your own gun became a very easy proposition. Within days the US State Department acted, requiring the plans to be removed from the internet, citing a breach of international arms control laws. However removing something from the internet is next to impossible once it has been uploaded and the plans for the gun have been downloaded over 100,000 times in the days since the State Department's ruling, with the plans still freely available on many torrent websites.
The issue that arises from this problem is a lot greater than simply plans for a single gun being made available, as Defense Distributed founder Cody Wilson pointed out, "this is a much bigger deal than guns. It has implications for the freedom of the web."
Regulating computers and the internet has always been incredibly difficult and more impossible to enforce, just look at the rampant flouting of copyright laws that occurs. Once a technology matures to a point where the common person can perform a task with their own computer regulating a task becomes difficult and this example of a homemade gun is just an example of a wider issue.
How do we regulate technologies when they can be produced with general purpose computers and networks – in the wrong way?