The U.S. Department of Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has announced another step in the effort to bring free, open communications to Iran, Sudan and Cuba. On March 8, 2010, OFAC issued new General Licenses that authorize the export of certain Internet-based communications services, thus directly encouraging the free flow of information and communications from Iran, Sudan and Cuba.

The new General Licenses continue the trend of liberalizing economic sanctions to promote more open communication to, from, and within these countries, as we previously highlighted in our GT Alert of September 2009,U.S. Opens Lines of Communication to Cuba — Revisions to Cuba Regulations Provide Opportunities for Telecom Industry.

The new General Licenses authorize the export of services and software to Iran and Sudan incident to the exchange of personal communications over the Internet, such as:

  • instant messaging;
  • chat and email;
  • social networking;
  • sharing of photos and movies;
  • web browsing; and
  • blogging.

To be eligible for the new General Licenses, the software must either:

  • be classified as EAR99 under the Export Administration Regulations (EAR);
  • be classified as “mass market software” under the EAR; or
  • not be subject to the EAR at all.

Finally, the services and software must also be publicly available at no cost to the user.

The new General License for Cuba authorizes only the export of the services described above, and includes the condition that the service must be provided at no cost to the end-user. The Cuba license does not authorize exports of software, as such exports fall under the jurisdiction of the Department of Commerce under the EAR.

The General Licenses do not authorize the direct or indirect export of specified services or items, including:

  • Internet connectivity services;
  • telecommunications satellite facilities (such as satellite links or dedicated lines); and
  • web-hosting services that are not for personal communications.

Similarly, the General Licenses do not authorize export of any subject services or software, either directly or indirectly, to the Government of Iran, the Government of Sudan, the Government of Cuba or certain members of the Communist Party of Cuba.

OFAC also announced that specific licenses may be issued on a case-by-case basis to authorize the export of software or services not covered by the General Licenses, including software or services that are not free and publicly available, thus furthering the same general policy of increasing communication to and within the sanctioned countries.