Syria Sanctions: OFAC Issues New General License Authorizing Publishing-Related Transactions

Publishing Transactions in Syria Authorized by OFAC

The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) commonly issues general licenses to sharpen and fine tune its country-based sanctions programs to minimize unintended consequences.  On April 13, 2015, OFAC issued a new general license in the Syrian Sanctions Regulations, promulgated pursuant to Executive Order 13338.  This new general license authorizes certain transactions necessary and ordinarily incident to publishing that was not already exempt from regulation under the “information and informational materials” provision of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA).

The new general license (31 CFR Section 542.532) follows the same format as similar licenses in the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations and the Sudanese Sanctions Regulations.

U.S. persons are now authorized to engage in all transactions necessary and ordinarily incident to the publishing and marketing of manuscripts, books, journals, and newspapers in paper or electronic format (collectively, “written publications”).  However, the general license does not apply if the parties involved in the transactions are blocked pursuant to Section 542.201, including the Government of Syria. Excluded from the definition of “Government of Syria” are any academic or research institutions and their personnel.  This mirrors the Iran and Sudan sanctions program, both of which exclude research institutions from the definition of their respective governments.

While application of the information and informational materials exemption applies primarily to information that is already created and in existence, the new general license authorizes “commissioning and making advance payments for identifiable written publications not yet in existence.”  This presumably would authorize US person publishers to commission Syrian authors and researchers to produce written publications, “to the extent consistent with industry practice.”  US persons can also collaborate with Syrian persons to create or enhance written publications.

The general license also expands upon the information exemption by authorizing US persons to create and undertake a marketing campaign to promote a written publication and to undertake “other transactions necessary and ordinarily incident to the publishing and marketing of written publications.”  Also authorized is the export of embedded software necessary for reading, browsing, navigating, or searching a written publication in electronic, provided that the software is designated as EAR 99 or is not subject to the EAR.

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Disclaimer: Blog posts should not be relied upon as legal advice and are only provided for informational purposes.  Information contained in blog posts may also become outdated with the passage of time as laws change and U.S. foreign policy and national security objectives evolve.