Open source and open hardware are all about freedom. The freedom to create, to build, to share. The trouble is that governments claim control of certain types of hardware and designs, generally in the interest of peacekeeping or non-proliferation. Whether or not they should is not part of this discussion, but the fact is that they do under a set of laws collectively known as export control. Export controls cover the transfer of ideas as well as goods. In other words, the very act of publishing designs for open source hardware on the internet is an export. And when those designs are for a piece of controlled technology, it is illegal to export those designs in any way (without express permission of the government).
Mach 30 has launched the Export Control Task Force to address the challenges of developing Open Source Hardware under current export controls. Its mission is to develop and share templates for the various policies and procedures makers, small businesses, and non-profits need for compliance with export control regulations while still honoring the ideals of the Open Source Hardware movement. See the links below to join us and for access to the task force’s materials. You can also use the button on the right to donate to the Export Control Task Force Legal Fund, which pays for the much needed legal council that aids in creating the templates and sample documents.
- Export Control Task Force Charter – document covering the purpose and roadmap for the Export Control Task Force
- Discussion Group – official task force communication channel, all new volunteers should sign up and introduce themselves
- Templates – export control policy and procedure templates, licensed under CC-By
- Meeting Minutes – folder containing minutes for all task force meetings
- Resources – list of important links and other resources pertaining to export controls
- Export Control Blog Posts – list of Mach 30 blog posts related to export controls
- Presentations – list of presentations and panels covering export controls
Exporting products or information about firearms (Defense Distributed), UAV’s (DIY Drones) or aerospace (Mach 30, SpaceGAMBIT, and others), and much more are all covered by the same laws as weapons production and arms trafficking. In the US, we are regulated by several interconnected laws, most of which are issued in response to international treaties:
- International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR)
- Export Administration Regulations (EAR)
- Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR)
- Wassenaar Arrangement
- Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation (HCOC)
One may always assume there is paperwork to do and procedures to follow where governments are involved, and particularly where it involves multiple nations. This has created a minefield waiting for the open source / open hardware community to walk into. Because the fines and penalties are designed to get the attention of arms dealers and large multinational companies, they are far outside the range of what the average business can afford to pay; millions of dollars and real jail time.
Mach 30 is a US-based 501(c)3 non-profit with a mission focused on developing open source spaceflight hardware and capability. Many of Mach 30’s projects will be export controlled. To meet this need, Mach 30 has organized a task force to develop policies, procedures, and best practices regarding export controls as they affect the open source hardware community. In the spirit of that community, this task force has been charged to produce all of this material under open licenses, including templates for key documents.
This toolkit will be shared with the Open Source Hardware community to make continued advancement possible while avoiding the trouble none of us can afford. More help would speed this process along, and we need all the help we can get. Even if we clear the path for US individuals and companies, the nature of what we do in open communities means that we will need to perform this task again for other nations when we come in contact with their businesses and individuals.
While the task ahead is not easy, it is something we must do. To fail in this is to condemn open aerospace to mediocrity and failure, and the individuals and companies who dare mighty things to being punished for their hard work and success. We will not sit idly by, but rather find ways to enable others and thereby ourselves.