Next steps for open source satellite regulatory relief, building on the Final Determination letter from the US State Department, began Friday 21 August 2020.
1) A Commodity Classification Request to the US Commerce Department is underway!
2) An Advisory Opinion request that this openly published work ceases to be subject to the EAR will follow the classification request, and is already underway as well.
The summary of the Commodity Jurisdiction request will eventually be published by the State Department at https://www.pmddtc.state.gov/?id=ddtc_kb_article_page&sys_id=6ea6afdcdbc...
And, our wonderful law firm says we are now able to publish the DS-4076.
Why? 1) info contained is already openly published 2) because the request was successful
The first reason is straightforward. Our designs and policies covered are already published. This is not usually the case for a request. It is much more common to have proprietary and confidential information presented for a determination. There are "few to none" submission packets generally published.
The second reason is because if a request is not successful then the information contained within it may end up being controlled upon final determination. So, if you publish before the final determination is made, then there is a big risk that you have disclosed controlled information.
This was the most pressing reason not to publish the form until the determination was made.
The lawyers did not recommend one way or another (let the State Department Summary serve or publish the entire form in addition to the State Department Summary). They left it up to those of us that commissioned the work, which is customary. Since most of the team already wanted to release the documents involved, the lawyers cleared the way, and we think it's a good idea on general principals, it's at
Another part of the discussion with the law firm was how these results can be best used by others. This has significant relevance in industry and academia. Our goal is to make it as easy as possible to use the results. There were three suggestions here.
1) Help people that have the money for it make additional similar filings. 2) Write about it in popular and technical press. 3) Write implementation guidelines and policies for others to adopt.
The goal of additional filings is to build a body of Final Determination letters that solidly support open source work. This is somewhat similar to the way patent portfolios work in commercial settings. It's the sort of thing AMSAT can really help with, given the connections and legacy.
Writing about the determination helps build momentum and confidence. This includes but is not limited to conference proceedings, newspaper tech sections, and blogs.
"How to Comply" checklist and set of policies at a minimum would help technical organizations snap into the zone. Making this accessible through clear guidelines is, to me, a necessary step. The law firm will review them before they are published.
This effort gives direct and large benefits to AMSAT in particular. It allows free and open international collaboration, dramatically reduces legal risks, increases the potential volunteer corps, simplifies fundraising, and reduces management burdens.
The work applies to orbits besides GEO and technology besides DVB-S2/X. Those that "insist" on extremely narrow final determinations can write their own Commodity Jurisdictions requests and expect to get the same result because they can use this one directly in their request as a reference. As said before, additional filings would be of great benefit to the community because a population of results strengthens the case for open source work. However, additional filings are not strictly necessary to completely reverse the ITAR/EAR situation at AMSAT.
The key to using this result, or any like it, is that the public domain carve out is solid and provides a bright path out of a bad place. In order to use it, one has to commit to open source policies and follow the law with regard to what constitutes publishing. You do have to avoid the things we specifically avoided. Those are going to be highlighted in the guidelines. They are things that AMSAT engineering does not do in the first place and will pose no impediment.
This final determination letter doesn't relieve anyone of having to file for a license to take hardware out of the country, but that isn't impossibly hard either. The word from experienced commercial and amateur satellite builders is that the heavy lifting has been done and we are in a "very improved" state.
There are several organizations that have gotten in touch about this to collaborate and/or take advantage of it. I will do my best to get traction in the commercial and industrial world as well as amateur and academic. I will not give up until we have a situation where there is the absolute minimum regulatory fear and risk for amateur volunteers, and we get the maximum amount of free and open international technical cooperation.
This sort of work is the least I can do to pay it forward. Amateur radio was the reason engineering became my vocation. Amateur radio is responsible for a great deal of my personal success.
Thank you to those that have supported this effort. To everyone that voted for me for AMSAT Director, this is what I was talking about delivering to you as part of my campaign. I have faith that the organization will take full advantage of it.