A referral source approached me recently asking about a client who wanted to license an artificial intelligence (“AI”) application to a company in Russia. Although my first thought was, “Why?” I quickly moved to the more relevant question of “How?” Until relatively recently, there were few, if any, legal impediments to exporting AI technology to other countries. However, in January of 2020, the Bureau of Industry and Security (“BIS”), which operates within the U.S. Department of Commerce, implemented a rule, adding “software specially designed to automate the analysis of geospatial imagery” (i.e., geospatial AI software) to the Export Control Classification Number 0Y521 Series. This suggests new legal issues companies will have to consider before exporting or licensing their AI applications from the United States and demonstrates a new element of the American government’s AI public policy. After giving a brief history of how the rule affecting geospatial AI software (the “Geospatial AI Rule”) came to be, I will discuss both the legal analysis organizations should make before agreeing to export AI software and how the Geospatial AI Rule fits into the values problem in America’s AI public policy.
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