Crypto and export laws

Piet van Oostrum piet at
Fri Sep 25 15:45:10 CEST 2009

>>>>> Ben Finney <ben+python at> (BF) wrote:

>BF> Piet van Oostrum <piet at> writes:
>>> But Python is not in the public domain. Open source != public domain.

>BF> One always needs to be aware of what bizarro-world definitions these
>BF> legalese documents are using for terms we might normally understand.
>BF> However, in this case it seems fairly sane and :

>BF>     GTN "In the public domain"

>BF>     GSN This means "technology" or "software" which has been made
>BF>     available

>BF>     ML 22 without restrictions upon its further dissemination.

>BF>     <URL:>

Yes, I found that a few minutes ago, in between my cooking preparations

>>> Public domain means there is no copyright and no license attached to
>>> it, AFAIK.

>BF> More accurately, it generally refers to a work with no copyright holder
>BF> and hence no license *needed* by anyone to perform acts normally
>BF> reserved to a copyright holder.

>BF> So free software still held under copyright is not “in the public
>BF> domain” by the above definition.

>BF> In any case, the part that seems to apply clearly to Python is this one:


>BF>     The Lists do not control "software" which is either: 

>BF>       1. Generally available to the public by being: 

>BF>       a. Sold from stock at retail selling points without restriction,
>BF>       by means of:

>BF>              1. Over-the-counter transactions;

>BF>              2. Mail order transactions;

>BF>              3. Electronic transactions; or

>BF>              4. Telephone call transactions; and 

>BF>       b. Designed for installation by the user without further
>BF>       substantial support by the supplier;

>BF>     <URL:>

>BF> Python is certainly generally available, by being sold as described
>BF> above (as well as other means), and with no further substantial support
>BF> from the supplier.

BUT: then it continues to state that the above does not apply to
cryptographic software. At least that's how I interpret the following

    Note Entry 1 of the General Software Note does not release
    "software" controlled by Category 5 - Part 2 ("Information

except that Category 5 - Part 2 makes some exceptions.

>BF> So AFAICT, the Wassenaar Arrangement on export controls explicitly
>BF> excludes Python (and most widely-sold free software) by the “generally
>BF> available to the public by being sold from stock at retail” definition.

I had heard of the WA before (if only because I live in the same
country) but never looked into it. So does this mean that the export of
crypto software (with the exceptions above) is not allowed from European
countries either? I.e. that we in Europe have been infected with these
stupid USA export laws, maybe in a milder form?
Piet van Oostrum <piet at>
URL: [PGP 8DAE142BE17999C4]
Private email: piet at

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