Rubin v. New Jersey (Tidbit)
Jeremy Rubin, a 19 year old MIT student in Massachusetts, developed a computer program called Tidbit with some classmates as part of the Node Knockout Hackaton in November 2013. Tidbit allows users to mine for Bitcoins on a client's computer as a replacement for traditional advertising. Tidbit was presented as a proof of concept and won the award for having the highest innovation score at the hackathon.
In December 2013, the New Jersey Attorney General's office issued a sweeping subpoena to Rubin and Tidbit, seeking Tidbit's source code, documents and narrative responses about how Tidbit worked, which websites it was installed on and the Bitcoin accounts and wallet addresses associated with Tidbit.
With the help of attorney Frank Corrado, EFF moved to quash the subpoena in New Jersey state court, challenging New Jersey's ability to regulate out of state Internet activity and its exercise of jurisdiction over Rubin, who is a Massachusetts resident. EFF also challenged the subpoena as infringing on Rubin's constitutional right not to incriminate himself, as the subpoena seeks answers to questions that could expose Rubin to liability under the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act ("CFAA") and New Jersey's anti-hacking statute.
In November 2014, Judge Garry Furnari of the Essex County Superior Court dismissed Rubin's complaint, finding that the state had jurisdiction over him and could regulate Tidbit's Internet activity. Importantly, the court noted it had "serious concerns" that the state "may be acting to discourage creative and ‘cutting edge’ new technology" and that it appeared "the Tidbit program and other similar creative endeavors serve a useful and legitimate purpose" and had no "inherently improper or malicious intent or design."