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 Sandler, Travis and Rosenberg

OFAC Now Permits Exports of Personal Communication Software, Hardware and Services to Iran
Melissa Miller Proctor, Esq., Sandler, Travis and Rosenberg, P.A.

On May 30, 2013, the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control ("OFAC") published General License D as part of the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations ("ITSR") authorizing U.S. companies to export or re-export certain personal communications items and services to Iran. Generally, the ITSR broadly prohibits most trade activities by U.S. persons with Iran without OFAC's prior authorization; however, the rollout of new General License D, which is essentially a license exception, illustrates the United States' continued desire to promote freedom of expression in Iran.

Previously, in 2010, OFAC amended the ITSR in order to permit the export/re-export of free personal, internet services to Iran as well as publicly available software necessary for such services. However, those amendments did not authorize exports of fee-based services, software and hardware products to Iran - such exports/re-exports continued to require Specific Licenses from OFAC. Under New General License D, the Specific License requirement for fee-based items and services was removed. As of May 30, 2013, the additional items and services that now may be exported/re-exported to Iran under General License D include:

(1) Fee-based services related to personal, internet communications over the Internet such as instant messaging, chat and e-mail, social networking, sharing of photos and movies, web browsing, and blogging

(2) Fee-based software products necessary for the above-referenced services - classified as either EAR99 or ECCN 5D992.c under the Export Administration Regulations ("EAR")

(3) Certain software and hardware items, as well as related services, that are subject to the EAR and incident to personal communications that are identified in General License D's General Annex, such as:

  • Mobile phones including smartphones, Personal Digital Assistants ("PDAs"), certain Subscriber Identity Module ("SIM") cards, certain drivers and connectivity software for such hardware and related services
  • Certain satellite phones and Broadband Global Area Network ("BGAN") hardware, demand drivers and connectivity software for such hardware and related services
  • Certain modems, network interface cards, radio equipment and antennae, routers, switches and Wi-Fi access points and related software and services
  • Residential consumer satellite receive-only terminals, receiver equipment, related software and services
  • Laptops, tablets and personal computing devices, disk drives, data storage devices, computer peripherals, keyboards, and mice
  • Computer operating systems and related software (including software updates and patches) and services
  • Anti-virus software, anti-malware software and related services
  • Anti-tracking software and related services
  • Mobile operating systems, online app stores, and related software and services
  • Anti-censorship tools and related software and services
  • Virtual Private Networks ("VPNs"), proxy tools, and fee-based personal communications tools (e.g., voice, text, video, voice-over-IP telephony, video chat) and related software and services
  • Secure Sockets Layers ("SSLs") and related services

(4) Consumer-grade internet connectivity services and the provision, sale, or leasing of capacity on telecommunications transmission facilities (such as satellite or terrestrial network connectivity) incident to personal communications.

In addition, U.S. financial institutions are also permitted to process payments from customers in Iran relating to these items and services.

It should be noted that General License D may not be used in the following situations:

  • Exports/re-exports to the Government of Iran
  • Exports/re-exports to persons or entities identified on the Specially Designated Nationals ("SDN") lists
  • Exports/re-exports of commercial-grade internet connectivity services or telecommunications transmission facilities (e.g., dedicated satellite links or dedicated lines that include quality of service guarantees)
  • Exports/re-exports of web-hosting services that are for purposes other than personal communications (e.g., web-hosting services for commercial endeavors) or of domain name registration services

OFAC will consider applications for specific licenses on a case-by-case basis for the export/re-export personal communications-related items and services that are not identified in the General Annex to this general license.

Before embarking on new trade opportunities with Iran involving these types of items and services under General License D, U.S. companies are strongly urged to conduct thorough due diligence. For example, companies are urged to carefully read and understand the specific terms, conditions and prohibitions of the new General License as well as vigilantly screen and vet potential business partners and customers in Iran against the SDN lists. As in anything involving U.S. embargoes and sanction programs, companies need to tread cautiously before leaping into deep waters.

Melissa Miller Proctor is a Member of Sandler, Travis and Rosenberg, P.A. and the firm's Export Practice Leader, resident in the Scottsdale, Arizona office. With significant experience in export controls, customs laws and regulations, and international trade, Melissa works closely with clients to expand their markets while ensuring their regulatory compliance. She may be reached at (480) 305-2110 or via e-mail at