Thursday, December 3, 1998

U.S. claims victory on global encryption exports

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- Clinton administration officials on Thursday said they had convinced other leading countries to impose strict new export controls on computer data scrambling products under the guise of arms control.

At a meeting on Thursday in Vienna, the 33 countries that have signed the Wassenaar Arrangement limiting arms exports - including Japan, Germany, and Britain - agreed to impose controls on the most powerful data scrambling technologies, including for the first time mass market software, U.S. special envoy for cryptography David Aaron told Reuters.

The United States, which restricts exports of a wide range of data scrambling products, has long sought without success to convince other countries to impose similar restrictions.

Leading U.S. high-technology companies, including Microsoft Corp. and Intel Corp., have complained that the lack of restrictions in other countries hampered their ability to compete abroad. The industry has sought to have U.S. restrictions relaxed or repealed, but not asked for tighter controls in other countries.

Aaron said the Wassenaar countries agreed to continue export controls on powerful scrambling, or encryption, products in general but ended an exemption for widely available software containing encryption.

The new policy also reduced reporting and paperwork requirements and specifically excluded from export controls products that used encryption to protect intellectual property, like movies or recordings sent over the Internet, from illegal copying, Aaron said.

((Aaron Pressman, Washington newsroom, 202-898-8312))

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