Translation and Commentary by Christopher Kuner, Esq.
Translation copyright 1998 Christopher Kuner. Reproduction is permitted, provided that this translator's note, including the above copyright notice, is retained in its entirety.
Commentary: This press release of the German Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs gives the position of the German government on the amendments to the "Wassenaar Arrangement", an international agreement on export control, and highlights the disagreement between the US and German governments. The US issued statements following the Wassenaar negotiations that "the agreement caps a two year effort by the United States to update international encryption export controls and to balance commercial and privacy interests with national security and public safety concerns". The German government statement, on the other hand, stresses the failure of "certain states" (i.e., the US government) to tie relaxation of export controls on encryption to use of "key recovery".
Press Release of the German Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs
December 8, 1998
Export Control for Encryption Technology Relaxed
No Forthcoming "Key Recovery" for Crypto Products
In their plenary meeting on December 2 and 3, 1998, the 33 member states of the Wassenaar Arrangement agreed on new export control rules for encryption techniques (crypto products). Export controls were relaxed and the establishment of crypto restrictions was prevented. Thus, also in the future there will not be any export prohibition for encryption products.
The original wide-ranging controls, which were marked by a multiplicity of sectoral exceptions, were replaced by a positively-formulated list. In the future all products (hardware and software will be treated the same) will only be subject to export controls if they have a key length of at least 56 bits; mass market products which satisfy certain conditions are subject to export controls only with key length of at least 64 bits. The limitation to 64 bits will apply for two years and lapse unless renewed by general agreement. Procedures such as digital signatures and authentication are entirely excluded from export controls, as are individual product groups such as certain cordless telephones or set-top boxes for pay TV. The rules concerning freely-available products (public domain) were not changed.
Certain states that had originally demanded special treatment for "key recovery" products were unsuccessful in their efforts. The export of encryption technology will therefore remain possible without the deposit of keys with the government.