February 13, 2014

Sanctions Exemptions for Communications Technology Expanded

Washington, DC – The Treasury and State Department issued a new General License last week to expand and clarify sanctions exemptions to enable the exportation of communication tools to Iranians. The move addressed several concerns raised with the Administration in a letter sent late last year by NIAC, International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, Access, and Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The U.S. government initially issued General License D in May 2013 to exempt communications software, hardware and services for Iran. The update to this license addresses several outstanding issues and could be designed to encourage private companies like Google, Yahoo, Samsung and others to allow their products and services to be available to Iranians. Many companies continued to block their services from Iran in spite of the initial license.

The amended license addresses the following issues:

  • Non-U.S. companies can re-export applicable U.S.-made software and hardware from locations outside of the United States;
  • U.S. companies can export foreign-made products that are not subject to the Export Administration Regulations from third countries;
  • The new license clarifies that individuals who travel to Iran from the U.S. with their personal communication devices can travel and return with these items;
  • Companies do not need to interpret whether or not an export is “incident to personal communication”. Qualifying products and services — such as mobile phones, satellite phones, laptops, tablets, personal computing devices and their peripherals — are listed in the license’s annex;
  • The new license makes clear that it does not authorize the employment of persons or services in Iran to facilitate sales;
  • The license clarifies that financial transactions related to exempted communications technology are also exempt from sanctions, similar to food and medicine.

NIAC has strongly supported efforts to exempt communications technology from the sanctions regime, while recognizing the extreme difficulty in utilizing limited exemptions to shield the Iranian people from the broad impact of untargeted sanctions. With the new license now in place, it is critical that private companies take full advantage of this license.


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