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Export Controls on Simulation Equipment, Software and Serious Games

The export or supply of some types of simulation software (sometimes referred to as serious games) may require approval to comply with the Customs (Prohibited Exports) Regulations 1958, the Weapons of Mass Destruction (Prevention of Proliferation) Act 1995, or Sanctions Regulations.

What simulation software is controlled for export?

Simulation software will require a permission to export if it is:

  • specially designed for military use and specially designed for:
    • modelling, simulating or evaluating military weapon systems
    • modelling or simulating military operational scenarios
    • command, communications, control and intelligence (C3I)
    • command, communications, control, computer and intelligence (C4I) applications
  • specially designed or modified for the development, production or use of military equipment, materials or software
  • specially designed or modified to enable non-military equipment to perform military functions
  • for determining the effects of conventional, nuclear, chemical or biological weapons

What makes simulation software controlled?

Simulation software will be controlled if it is supplied with embedded military content that is restricted or not in the public domain. Embedded military content can include tactics, techniques, or procedures derived from restricted military documents or weapons performance data that is supplied by an armed force or an armed group, whether or not the armed force or armed group forms part of the armed forces of the government of a foreign country.

General guidance on the control threshold

  • If a serious game was developed with the Defence or military market as a focus, but does not actually meet any of the above criteria, then the serious game would fall below the threshold of control.
  • Serious games that are exported solely as a game engine will not meet the threshold of control, even if they are expected to be configured by a foreign end-user (including militaries) for any of the purposes stated above. However, the software or technology that is required to configure the game into any of the above is likely to be subject to export control, even if that software or technology is exported before or after the export of the actual game.
  • Software is not controlled if it is generally available to the public at retail selling points without restrictions. Therefore, video games for game consoles are not controlled, even if they feature realistic military scenarios.
If it is not clear if a serious game meets any of the above criteria, advice should be sought from DEC.
Note: If the items listed above are in the public domain, no controls will apply.

What is an export?

Goods that leave Australia with an intention to be landed outside Australia are considered to be an export. This includes goods and technologies sent by air and sea, through a freight forwarder, Australia Post, or carried in personal (checked-in or hand) luggage. Goods and technology sent overseas for sale, demonstration, repairs or return to the manufacturer are considered to be an export. Goods and technologies that have been temporarily imported under a Customs carnet are also subject to export controls when leaving Australia.

What are export controls?

The Australian Government controls the export of certain goods and technologies from Australia. Permission is required to export restricted goods and technologies. Defence Export Controls (DEC) is one of many agencies that provide permission to export restricted goods. We regulate the export of goods controlled under Regulation 13E of the Customs (Prohibited Export) Regulations 1958 and administers the Weapons of Mass Destruction (Prevention of Proliferation) Act 1995 (the WMD Act).

What types of goods and technologies are controlled under Regulation 13E?

The Defence and Strategic Goods List (DSGL) is the complete list of goods and technologies that are controlled for export under Regulation 13E. Part 1 of the DSGL , the Munitions List, includes items that are designed or adapted for use by armed forces, or goods that are inherently lethal. This includes non-military firearms and ammunition, commercial explosives and initiators. Items in Part 1 commence with the prefix ML.

Part 2 of the DSGL , the Dual-use List contains dual-use goods and technologies. These are items are developed to meet commercial needs but may be used either as military components, or in the development or production of military systems, or weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

Further information on the DSGL is available on the Defence and Strategic Goods List page.

What types of goods and services are controlled under the WMD Act?

The WMD Act enables the Government to control the export or supply of goods or services that may assist a WMD program. The WMD Act does not, however, contain a list of goods and services that may be controlled.

Further information on the WMD Act is available from Weapons of Mass Destruction (Prevention of Proliferation) Act 1995 page.

Strengthening Export Controls

Australia has strengthened export controls by bringing legislation into line with international standards. During a two-year transition period, Defence worked with stakeholders to address concerns with the Defence Trade Controls Act 2012, and as a result, amendments to the Act were adopted through the Defence Trade Controls Amendment Act 2015.

The Defence Trade Controls Amendment Act 2015, which received Royal Assent on 2 April 2015, expands the existing defence exports control regime to cover:

  • the intangible supply and publication of DSGL technology and;
  • brokering of DSGL goods and technology.

The offence provisions of the Act, for supplying and publishing DSGL technology and for brokering DSGL goods and technology, came into force on 2 April 2016. They will not be applied retrospectively.

Further information on the new controls is available on the Supply, Publication and Brokering pages on this website.

What about Sanctions?

Sanctions generally restrict the unauthorised supply, sale or transfer of arms and related materiel to certain countries. Particular sanctions regimes prohibit the supply of WMD dual-use goods, vehicles or luxury goods. The unauthorised provision of services associated with goods subject to sanctions, such as financial services or brokerage, is also prohibited.  Targeted financial sanctions prohibit dealings with persons and entities which have been designated as being subject to such measures. 

Australian sanctions laws are administered by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).  Up-to-date details about sanctions laws and the list of countries in which sanctions apply may be found on DFAT's website.

Further information on sanctions is also available on the Sanctions page.

How do I get permission to export goods and technologies that may be controlled?

You should submit an Application to Export Controlled Goods and Technology form to DEC if you intend to export and believe your goods and technology are controlled. If you are unsure about the control status of the goods or technology to be exported, you may also submit an Application to Export Controlled Goods and Technology form to ask DEC to establish their control status. Further information on theses proccess is available on the Apply for a licence or permission to export controlled goods or technology page and Understand the status of goods and technology page.

Note: Permission must be obtained prior to exporting controlled goods and technologies to any overseas destination.

Are there penalties for exporting goods without permission?

Export control legislation contains offences for the unlawful export or supply of controlled goods and services. DEC is committed to ensuring that exporters are aware of the legislative requirements that apply as non-compliance can lead to significant penalties.

Further information on the penalties associated with unlawful export of controlled goods, services and technology is available on the Penalties page.

Where can I get more information?

If you are unsure if your simulation software is controlled for export, you should seek advice from DEC. More information on the export controls administered by DEC is available throughout this website.

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