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Exporting software and technical information

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Government Platform, Licensing & Permissions

security lock console background. Photo by Yuri Samoilov. . Released under Creative Commons Licence

When they think about exporting, many people believe it only refers to selling physical goods to people or companies in other countries. They often don’t realise that software and technical information may also be subject to export controls, even if no money changes hands.

In fact, even transferring knowledge within this country may be subject to export controls in certain circumstances. So you don’t have to move something physical to be an exporter. You don’t even need to leave your office!

What is an export anyway?

Here are some examples of transfers of software and technical information:

A) A global distributor sells encryption software for military satellites. This company buys the software from manufacturers and transfers it to resellers. The reseller has to log in to a server located in another country to download the software.

B) An SME’s day-to-day business requires collaboration by transferring software specially designed to modify end-user data and avoid detection by computer monitoring tools.

C) An SME has staff visiting from an overseas office. Designs for a new toxic gas monitoring system will be discussed at their business meeting.

D) An academic takes source code to a convention to share with a colleague. The source code was developed in conjunction with the military for national defence purposes.

Why it's important

Just like physical goods, exports of software and technology are controlled for several reasons, including:

• concerns over potential human rights violations
• preventing development of weapons of mass destruction
• foreign policy and international treaty commitments
• national and collective security of the UK and its allies
• regional security and conflict

The aim is not to prevent transfers of software or technical information for legitimate commercial, research or governmental applications but to help companies conduct business while addressing these concerns. This is why some software and technology may need a licence before it can be transferred abroad.

Can you help?

We are starting to work on a set of tools to make it easier for you to find out if you need a licence to export software or technical information. If you have experience in either of these areas, we would be grateful if you could complete a short survey where you can tell us about your needs and the challenges you face. You will also be able to leave your details if you would like to help us test our tools at a later date.

Alternatively, if you have any comments about this area or any suggestions for how we can improve the process, but don’t want to fill in the survey, please get in touch with us at or respond in the comments section beneath this blog.

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  1. Comment by Jeremy posted on

    Do you know when this tool will be made available?
    Will Brexit have any impact on the delivery of this tool??

    • Replies to Jeremy>

      Comment by Laura John posted on

      Hi Jeremy - Brexit is a complex process and could impact many parts of government but we will put the service in to beta in the middle of next year.


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