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US crypto laws ‘unconstitutional’

But only as far as source code is concerned

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It's official. Crypotography software -- or, more accurately, its source code -- can now be freely exported from the US, contrary to that country's government's regulations. At the end of a legal case begun back in 1995, University of Illinois maths professor Daniel Bernstein finally learned yesterday that the US court of appeal had agreed with his contention that software code was a language, and that its dissemination was therefore protected by the US Constitution's First Amendement. Essentially, the ruling, made after a two to one majority verdict for the court's three District Judges, declares US encryption software export rules to be unconstitutional, said Bernstein's lawyer, Cindy Cohn. That said, the appeal ruling described the restrictions placed on Bernstein in terms of limiting his "scientific expression". That could well provide a gap for the government to continue to restrict the shipment of commercial products, possibly even if those products' source code is freely available, as is PGP's, for instance. ®

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