UK Export controls on software

Export control regulations in the UK cover controls on software and technology. If the software is of a controlled nature, you may need a license to export it out of the country. The export controls on technology and software extend to transfers by electronic media, fax messages, phone and/or verbal or oral instructions.

  • Most non-military use only software and technology can be exported to EU without a license
  • If the items falls are covered in Annex IV of EU Regulation 428/2009, you will need a license even if you are exporting to the EU
  • Even if the software does not appear on the UK Export control list, you cannot export or transfer it from any country or transfer it even within the UK if you have any knowledge that it may be used in the manufacture or development of biological, chemical or nuclear weapons of mass destruction. Development refers to all stages of development such as research, design, prototyping, testing, etc.

The penalties for failing to apply for the appropriate export licenses are significant, and can range from goods seizures to imprisonment. These are also treated as criminal offences.

Since the export control regulations exist to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destructions, traders should keep in mind that the more sensitive the nature of goods, the higher the levels of scrutiny and controls are to be expected. The legislation is no intended to unduly inconvenience businesses. Some of the following exemptions are in place on export controls of software and technology:

  1. Data and information easily available to public. This refers to technology that is available without restrictions upon its release
  2. Basic scientific research. This refers to experiments and research done to attain new information about observable phenomena and not to meet a specific target or objective
  3. Technology that is required to allow the installation, use, repair and maintenance of controlled items that have already been approved for export

How is technology defined?

Generally speaking, in UK Export legislation, technology is defined to be the data, know how or information required to enable the development, use, manufacture or production of weapons of mass destruction or military use. This information or data can be presented in many forms, such as photographs, audio recordings, blueprints, plans, schematics, diagrams, models, instruction manuals, reference diagrams, engineering design specifications and/or tables. This data may be stored on optical media or other types of disks and tapes.

A final note

When a trader is attempting to determine the export control requirements attracted by his/her software or technology the following references to export control technology should be researched for a start:

  1. Is it technology that relates to military or paramilitary goods? If yes, it may be subject to export controls in the UK Military List
  2. Is is technology related to explosive goods? If yes, it may be subject to export controls in the UK Military List
  3. Is it technology related to dual-use type goods? If yes, these it may be subject to controls in the Export Control Order
  4. Is it technology controlled due to a specific end use control? If yes, it may be subject to controls in the Export Control Order

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