Export Controls Q&A*
1. I'm taking a group of students from my archaeology class on a one week trip to some newly-discovered ruins in Romania. I'm planning to take my W&L-provided laptop, and I'm sure some of my students will bring their international cell phones and iPods. What impact will export controls have on this trip?
A: Your trip will not be greatly affected by export control issues. On the facts presented, your use of the laptop, as well as the students' use of their cell phones and iPods, is likely allowable under export control laws.
2. I'm travelling with a group of students to Sudan, to assist in the humanitarian relief efforts in Darfur during Spring Break. I'd like to take my personal laptop, and also a GPS device just in case we get lost. I'm also aware that one of my students, an art aficionado, is planning to spend ~ US$200 on a painting from her favorite Sudanese artist while on the trip. Are there any export controls concerns raised by our humanitarian efforts?
A: Yes. Sudan is on the list of OFAC-sanctioned countries, and even visitors with humanitarian intent must comply with heavy restrictions. Under U.S. law, the laptop and GPS device may not be taken to Sudan without a special license, obtained in advance, from the appropriate government agencies. Contact the Office of General Counsel for assistance in submitting a license application. In addition, the sanctions limit the value of goods returned from Sudan to US$100 total - thus, the student would not be allowed to buy the painting.
3. I've been presented with a document to sign in connection with a grant I was just awarded for a proposed study involving a new type of integrated circuit. This grant is very important to me, and I don't want it to be derailed by some technicality - can't I just sign the document?
A: It is very likely that this research is export controlled, and you could lose certain protections under the law by signing a document that includes any of a number of key terms. As important as this grant may be, you probably don't want it if it would result in you inadvertently violating the law and subsequently facing fines, prison time, and loss of all future federal funding. Therefore, you should send the document to the Office of General Counsel for review, and possible negotiation of these terms.
4. I'm giving a presentation on my development of a new algorithm (which is projected to have significant use in encryption technology) to an advanced mathematics class that includes an exchange student from China. What are the export control ramifications?
A: Assuming that that the results are (or will be) published and generally accessible to the public (or shared broadly within the academic/scientific community), the dissemination of this information to a Chinese foreign exchange student likely falls under an exception to the export control laws.
5. I've been asked to participate in a joint research endeavor with an Iranian foreign national who currently works for a private research center in Egypt. Our research involves a potential improvement to Kevlar synthetic fibers (which are often used in military armor). What are the ramifications?
A: This activity will likely require advance licenses from multiple government agencies. Contact the Office of General Counsel for assistance in obtaining this license.
*The questions presented in this Q and A are hypotheticals - therefore, the answers should not be relied upon as legal advice. For a specific analysis of the effect of export control laws on your specific situation, contact the Office of General Counsel.