Let's assume in Country A the import of certain digital goods is restricted as with the Wassenaar arrangement. A person hosts such software on his server and has an export license. Another person downloads these digital goods in Country A.

Who has broken the law; the server host or the other person who did the download?

Is it ok for the host to specify that it cannot be imported to that Country A?

  • I don't recall that you can have an unrestricted export license. The export license would be granted specifically to allow export to company C in country A. Perhaps with some latitude for C's subsidiaries, but certainly not to "anyone, anywhere".
    – MSalters
    Feb 4, 2021 at 15:27
  • A quick rule-of-thumb test for legal questions like this: which of these alternatives is enforceable in practice? The person who imports something into a jurisdiction usually has a tangible interest to adhere to its rules, either because she is or wants to be located inside the jurisdiction or at least has a business interest there – which can be apprehended or thwarted by law enforcement. The same does not generally apply to exporters; once the export is complete, they and the exported good have left the jurisdiction. That makes sense if we assume that lawmakers prefer enforceable laws. Feb 4, 2021 at 16:00

2 Answers 2


Import laws apply to the one who imports. In your scenario that is the person in country A only.

The server owner does not cause the digital content to be transmitted to A. The one who downloads does.


Assuming the exporter is in country B, and according to B's laws the export is legally fine.

Country A decides what is - in their opinion - legal or illegal, and what they want to prosecute. So country A could decide by creating appropriate laws that the exporter in country B is acting illegally, and that they want to prosecute them. If they have these laws, and want to prosecute, then they could ask country B to extradite the exporter. B would be extremely unlikely to follow this request because the exporter has done nothing wrong in the eyes of country B. The exporter would then be strongly advised not to travel to country A.

But countries will in many cases not be interested with what happens outside their country. Still, the exporter would be wise to check if the export puts them in any danger. If they had applied and received an export license in country B, you would expect that B would have given advice where they shouldn't export to. Like "You received a license that allows you to export to any country in the world except countries X, Y or Z without breaking the law in B. We recommend that you don't export to R, S, T because such an export is illegal according to the laws of these country. "

  • 1
    The problem with the Wassenaar arrangement violation is that you'd have problems with Country A, but they will also report you to Interpol. And the other signatories of the Wassenaar agreement may agree with A, and put out national warrants for you too.
    – MSalters
    Feb 4, 2021 at 15:24
  • I think you've confused me. Your last sentence "because such an export is illegal according to the laws of these countr(ies)" .. but shouldn't it be "because such an import is illegal according to the laws of these countr(ies)"?
    – CGCampbell
    Feb 4, 2021 at 15:42
  • However a software hosted is downloadable by anyone how can someone do anything more than put warnings ? Feb 4, 2021 at 15:57

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