By Daniel Etcovitch – Edited by Emily Chan
Florida Judge Rules Bitcoin Is Not Equivalent to Money
In Florida’s first money-laundering case to involve Bitcoin, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Teresa Mary Pooler declared that Bitcoin do not qualify as a “monetary instrument” and that their transfer is not a “financial transaction” under state criminal law. While this precedent is only binding in Florida, the analysis may be a signal to federal regulators who have yet to take a definitive stance on this issue, catalyzing them to take some action. It is certainly an important consideration for tech industry players with an interest in Bitcoin. The judge decided bitcoins are not equivalent to money because they “are not a commonly used means of exchange,” “does not have a central authority” managing them in the way a currency would, and they are not “tangible wealth.”
Illinois Governor Signs Bill Restricting Use of Stingrays
With a new law that will take effect on January 1, 2017, Illinois joins the growing group of states that are limiting law enforcement use of cell-site simulators (also called Stingrays). These devices emulate cell towers and collect data from unsuspecting phone users in the area. Under the new law, entitled the “Citizen Privacy Protection Act,” in order to use a Stingray, law enforcement not only must submit to the court an application that describes the device and its intended use, such as “whether it will obtain data from non-target communications devices,” but also must immediately delete any data that is obtained using the Stingray from non-target communications devices.
DMCA DRM Circumvention Provision’s Constitutionality Being Challenged
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is suing the federal government, challenging the constitutionality of the portion of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) that prohibits circumventing digital locks on content (often called DRM). Their case centers around the fact that the only way to get an exception to the DRM ban is to apply to the Librarian of Congress, a process that takes place only once every three years and sometimes leads to inconsistent results. According to EFF, the current law does sufficiently allow content to be used in ways that would qualify for the fair use exception, including for political commentary or creation of educational content, conflicting with freedom of speech under the First Amendment. EFF also challenges the anti-trafficking provision of the DMCA, which bans distribution of tools that would help circumvent DRM, on the basis that there is absolutely no way to get an exception. Under that provision, even if the Librarian of Congress gave an exception allowing the petitioner to legally circumvent DRM, nobody is allowed to distribute the technology by which to do so. JOLT Digest provides more in-depth coverage.