Export Controls

Economic and trade sanctions enacted by one government against another often have detrimental effects on the free flow of digital communications and communications technologies that activists, innovators and ordinary users of technologies desperately need. EFF has a long history of fighting against those effects, especially by the US government.      

Since the beginning, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has worked to ensure that individuals everywhere have access to important technologies that they need to communicate, enjoy privacy, and organize. As part of the “crypto wars,” we handled the seminal  case, Bernstein v. U.S. Dept. of Justice, that, along with a sister case Junger v. Daley, resulted in rulings that written software code is speech protected by the First Amendment. In Bernstein, the court held that export control laws on encryption programs violated Bernstein’s First Amendment rights by prohibiting his constitutionally protected right to publish his software. This ruling helped spur the government to change its licensing practices so that everyone now has the right to publish, and thereby “export” most encryption software without prior permission from the government.

Today, we continue our work to ensure that U.S. takes steps necessary to free up vital communications technologies from export controls, so that companies have the information they need to apply for export licenses to controlled countries or to understand that no license is needed, while simultaneously fighting for overall clarity and reform of the labyrinthine export regulations.


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