WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) today issued guidance and licensing information to further support the free flow of information to citizens of Iran – a freedom the Iranian regime has consistently denied to its people. It is essential that people have the freedom to seek, receive and impart information through a variety of mediums, including the Internet. These freedoms empower individuals to make informed decisions about the world around them, to express their concerns and aspirations, and to hold their government accountable for its actions. To that end, the United States has consistently defended the right of people around the world to enjoy fundamental freedoms, such as the freedom of expression, assembly and association both offline and online. By jamming satellites and censoring the Internet, the Iranian regime has erected an electronic curtain that prevents the Iranian people from communicating with the outside world and with each other.
In March 2010, in order to foster and support the free flow of information to individual Iranian citizens, OFAC amended the Iranian Transactions Regulations, 31 C.F.R. part 560 (the “ITR”), to authorize the exportation to Iran of certain services and software incident to the exchange of personal communications over the Internet.
Specifically, section 560.540 of the ITR authorizes the exportation from the United States or by U.S. persons, wherever located, to persons in Iran of services 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, provided that such services are publicly available at no cost to the user.
Section 560.540 of the ITR also authorizes the exportation from the United States or by U.S. persons, wherever located, to persons in Iran of software necessary to enable such services, provided that the software is classified as “EAR99” under the Export Administration Regulations (the “EAR”), is not subject to the EAR, or is classified by the Department of Commerce as mass market software under export control classification number 5D992, and is publicly available at no cost to the user.
Today, OFAC issued Interpretive Guidance regarding the scope of this authorization. OFAC has determined that the categories of services and software listed below fall within the scope of services incident to the exchange of personal communications over the Internet or software necessary to enable such services, as described in section 560.540 of the ITR.
· Personal Communications (e.g., Yahoo Messenger, Google Talk, Microsoft Live, Skype (non-fee based))
· Updates to Personal Communications Software
· Personal Data Storage (e.g., Dropbox)
· Browsers/Updates (e.g., Google Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer)
· Plug-ins (e.g., Flashplayer, Shockwave, Java)
· Document Readers (e.g., Acrobat Readers)
· Free Mobile Apps Related to Personal Communications
· RSS Feed Readers and Aggregators (e.g., Google Feed Burner).
In addition, OFAC is clarifying its existing Statement of Licensing Policy (“SLP”) that establishes a favorable licensing policy through which U.S. persons can request OFAC approval to export to Iran certain services and software not covered by section 560.540 of the ITR that directly benefit the Iranian people. This SLP applies to services and software such as web hosting, online advertising, fee-based mobile apps, and fee-based Internet communication services.