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EFF to Defend Student Bitcoin Developers in Court

September 18, 2014

EFF to Defend Student Bitcoin Developers in Court

New Jersey Prosecutors Issue Flawed Subpoena for Tidbit Source Code

Newark, NJ - Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) Staff Attorney Hanni Fakhoury will appear before a New Jersey Superior Court judge on Monday, Sept. 22 to oppose a subpoena issued to MIT students over their prize-winning Bitcoin mining program, Tidbit.

Tidbit was designed to serve as an alternative to viewing online advertising by allowing website users to help mine Bitcoins for the site they're visiting instead. It was developed in late 2013 by Jeremy Rubin and fellow classmates at MIT for the Node Knockout Hackathon, where the program ultimately won an award for innovation. The creators never made the program fully functional, serving only as a "proof of concept."

In December 2013, the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs issued a subpoena to Rubin, requesting he turn over Tidbit's past and current source code, as well as other documents and agreements with any third parties. It also issued 27 formal written questions requesting additional documents and ordering Rubin to turn over information such as the names and identities of all Bitcoin wallet addresses associated with Tidbit, a list of all websites running Tidbit's code, and the name of anybody whose computer mined for Bitcoins through the use of Tidbit.

EFF represents Rubin and Tidbit in opposing the unjustifiably broad subpoena. In court, Fakhoury will argue three points:

- The State of New Jersey's attempts to target out-of-state activity is unconstitutional.

- New Jersey has no jurisdiction over Rubin or Tidbit.

- If the subpoena is upheld, Rubin and Tidbit must receive immunity. Otherwise, the court would be forcing Rubin and Tidbit to testify against themselves in violation of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and New Jersey state law.

"While the state certainly has a right to investigate consumer fraud, threatening out of state college students with subpoenas isn't the way to do it," Fakhoury said. "The students have disbanded their award-winning project. As MIT students and faculty have warned, the fear that any state can issue broad subpoenas to any student anywhere in the country will have a chilling effect on campus technological innovation beyond Tidbit."

What: Motion Hearing in Rubin v. New Jersey

Who: Hanni Fakhoury, EFF Staff Attorney

Date: Monday, Sept. 22

Time: 1:30 p.m. ET

Location: Courtroom of the Honorable Gary Furnari

Essex County Historic Court House, Courtroom 211

470 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Newark, NJ 07102

For the motion: https://www.eff.org/files/2014/02/03/rubin_v._nj_brief.pdf

Contacts:

Hanni Fakhoury
   Staff Attorney
   Electronic Frontier Foundation
   hanni@eff.org

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