Take the 2-minute tour ×
Programmers Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for professional programmers interested in conceptual questions about software development. It's 100% free, no registration required.

What's the story on contributing to open source projects with respect to the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) or the Export Administration Regulations (EAR)?

From how the laws read it seems like just working on open source SW could put you in violation of export control laws. Is there any precedence on this? Has there been any court cases involving this?

share|improve this question
Exactly what are your concerns? I'm familiar with ITAR and EAR, but I've never seen it come up in open-source software before. Most of what is covered is defense, space, and energy technology (and the associated software for those applications). I'm having a hard time envisioning open-source software that is covered under export regulations, with the exceptions of perhaps some cryptographic functions. –  Thomas Owens Nov 14 '12 at 15:08
That's kind of my question. I imagine that a GUI isn't gonna raise any eyebrows, but what about business logic? Could certain parts of a physics algorithm from a game engine be considered "dual-use" because you could use it to guide or stabilize a missile? Most software comes with some hash or cryptographic function somewhere, could that be an issue? The laws seems purposefully ambiguous and just wondered if anyone knew a good rule-of-thumb. –  Joel B Nov 14 '12 at 15:17

1 Answer 1

up vote 4 down vote accepted

The export regulations that you mention apply to a specific set of technologies, often related to defense/military, space, and energy technology. Explicitly excluded from regulation are things released to the public domain and any mathematical, scientific, or engineering principles taught in schools or universities. If you can go to your local library, an organization's (such as the IEEE or ACM) digital library, or do the work for a course, the material is probably safe for use. Unless you're doing advanced R&D work or are bringing in knowledge that you've obtained while working on controlled technology, I would suspect that anything you might work on would not be regulated. If there's any question, the best person to ask would be an expert in export control regulations.

Note that, individuals are indeed subject to the regulations and they are rather easy to violate. Simply carrying a computer or flash drive with regulated content outside the US or showing an algorithm to a foreign person is considered an export under US law.

share|improve this answer
A foreign person can also be a U.S. citizen affiliated with a foreign organization or government. –  M. Dudley Nov 14 '12 at 16:02
@emddudley True - there's a list of several things that define exactly what a "US person" and a "foreign person" are with respect to export control laws. –  Thomas Owens Nov 14 '12 at 16:04

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.