Stefan Molyneux, Published on Nov 18, 2013
reddit.com/r/Bitcoin / by dstanchfield / November 18, 2013
Bitcoin Just Passed Western Union in Transaction Volume
San Francisco - Fifty inventors, technologists and entrepreneurs joined Engine Advocacy and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) today in requesting that Congress immediately pass meaningful patent reform legislation to curb the growing patent troll problem.
The signatories are collectively listed as inventors on nearly 200 patents, many of which cover software inventions. They expressed support for patent reform. Congress is currently pursuing several approaches that have the potential to curb the chilling effect on innovation posed by trolls and improve patent quality.
"Broad, vague patents covering software-type inventions—some of which we ourselves are listed as inventors on—are a malfunctioning component of America's inventive machinery," the inventors write. "This is particularly the case when those patents end up in the hands of non-practicing patent trolls." The inventors believe that "software patents are doing more harm than good," and they urge Congress to pass legislation that would curb patent troll abuses, which pose an immediate threat to innovation and the promise of technology.
"It's time to force these trolls to take responsibility for the damage they cause with their dangerous claims," said inventor Derek Parham, who helped organize the letter. "We need legislation that will put a stop to the patent troll business model once and for all."
In addition to Derek, many prominent engineers and entrepreneurs signed the letter, including Twitter co-founder Evan Williams; Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz; former Principal Engineer at Qualcomm Ranganathan Krishnan; and Quantcast's co-founder Paul Sutter.
"The time for meaningful reform is now," said Julie Samuels, EFF Senior Staff Attorney and the Mark Cuban Chair to Eliminate Stupid Patents. "We hope Congress will hear these engineers and inventors and so many others and pass legislation that ends the patent troll problem once and for all."
For the full open letter: https://www.eff.org/document/inventorslettersupportpatentreformContacts:
Staff Attorney and The Mark Cuban Chair to Eliminate Stupid Patents
Electronic Frontier Foundation
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US Supreme Court hears oral arguments in union “neutrality agreements” case. "Ongoing litigation over “neutrality agreements” exposes the extent to which corrupt management-union relations have become standard practice."Topic(s):
EFF’s case challenging the government’s mass telephone records collection program, First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles v. NSA, has received some new firepower in the form of five amicus briefs, including one from U.S. senators charged with overseeing the NSA’s activities. The briefs are all in support of our claim that the NSA’s mass surveillance of ordinary Americans’ telephone records is illegal and unconstitutional.
The friend-of-the-court brief filed by the ACLU on behalf of Senators Ron Wyden, Mark Udall, and Martin Heinrich takes issue with the government's argument that mass collection is necessary because it is the only effective technique for using phone records: The government has repeatedly suggested that it first must assemble the haystack, then find the needle. The senators, all members of the committee tasked with oversight of the NSA, write that they “have seen no evidence that the bulk collection of Americans’ phone records has provided any intelligence of value that could not have been gathered through less intrusive means.” As the senators’ brief points out, the government has other, more targeted means of surveillance at its disposal which can yield intelligence without invading the privacy of millions of innocent Americans.
The problems with unchecked surveillance and the need for oversight are also discussed in a brief filed on behalf of three experts in the history of intelligence agency surveillance: NSA historian James Bamford and two Church Committee staff members, Loch Johnson and Peter Fenn. Relying on the findings of the 1975 Church Committee, the brief draws parallels between the NSA’s current dragnet collection of phone records and previous mass surveillance programs. When left unchecked, the experts assert, initially narrow surveillance programs “expand beyond their original purposes, often into illegal conduct.”
Several other briefs shed light on the destructive effects that the phone records program has on fundamental constitutional rights, such as free speech, free association, and the right to counsel.
The PEN American Center, whose members include some of the most celebrated writers in the world, undertook a survey that shows that the revelation of NSA surveillance has caused American writers to self-censor, avoiding writing and communicating about topics that might draw government scrutiny. As PEN explains in its brief, these chilling effects undermine the First Amendment’s fundamental protection of the right to advocate unpopular or controversial viewpoints.
Meanwhile, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press focuses on the “corrosive effect that mass call tracking has on the ability of the media to report on matters of public interest.” For some of the most important reporting in American history, including the Watergate scandal and the first revelations of the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping in 2005, reporters have relied on confidential sources and government leaks. In the past, when the government has sought to identify these sources, it has had to obey First Amendment protections and negotiate with journalists. Yet, as the Reporters Committee argues, these protections are “rendered pointless when cast against the backdrop of total surveillance of domestic telephone calls.” As a result, reporters’ sources dry up, restricting the ability of the press to play its crucial role in providing information to the public.
Finally, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers highlights how the phone records program infringes the Sixth Amendment’s guarantee of a right to counsel in criminal cases. Interlocking doctrines of confidentiality protect several aspects of the lawyer-client relationship, but just as the mass collection of phone records can reveal many intimate details of individuals’ daily lives, it can also strip away this confidentiality. Because “the very act of consulting with the counsel of one’s choice places the fact and details of that consultation, and all subsequent communications by both attorney and client, in the hands of the Government,” clients are chilled from seeking legal help and the Sixth Amendment guarantee is undermined.
Combined with the plaintiffs’ first-hand accounts of how their associational rights are chilled by the phone records program, these amicus briefs show the wide-ranging effects of the government's unconstitutional phone records program.
The amicus briefs:First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles v. NSA
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With a tremendous build-up heading into yesterday’s hearing, the price of BTC peaked at over 600 USD. At the start of today’s hearing beginning with Senator Tom Carper’s (D-DE) opening statement, the price of Bitcoin dropped quickly to 445USD/BTC yet at the close of the hearing, the price of Bitcoin stood at 620USD/BTC and keeps rising. With two panels and a captivated audience on the Hill and via online around the world, the first US Congressional Hearing on virtual currencies can be viewed as a success.
Senator Carper (D-DE) opened up the hearing with an introduction expressing the committee’s interest in learning more of the benefits and potential risks of virtual currencies. Entitled, “Beyond Silk Road: Potential Risks, Threats, and Promises of Virtual Currencies,” the hearing started off with the first panel of representatives from the US Government including Jennifer Shasky Calvery (Director, Financial Crimes Enforcement Network U.S. Department of the Treasury), Mythili Raman (Acting Assistant Attorney General, Criminal Division, U.S. Department of Justice), and Edward W. Lowery III (Special Agent in Charge, Criminal Investigative Division, U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Department of Homeland Security).
Jennifer Shasky Calvery of FinCen opened the first panel and expressed the need for smart regulations that minimize risk. Jennifer highlighted that virtual exchanges can fit into the pre-existing regulatory regime in the US. She proceeded to explain that the PATRIOT Act and Bank Secrecy Act have already provided the tools and the platform for FinCen and the US Government to crack down on illicit activity and specifically pointed out that Section 311 of the Patriot Act was used to crack down on Liberty Reserve. As FinCen’s main goal is to crack down on terrorism and money laundering, Jennifer emphasized that innovation comes with obligation and encouraged each business to register with FinCen, put in place AML restrictions, maintain records and provide service reports to FinCen. She specifically emphasized that it is a privilege to be a part of a global financial system. In response to Senator Carper’s question related to keeping businesses in the United States, she discussed how each country has an interest in protecting consumers and investors from fraud.
Mythili Raman Acting Assistant Attorney General, Criminal Division of the US Department of Justice stressed that virtual currency services are not in and of themselves illegal. Mythill expressed that law enforcement must remain vigilant and understand the challenges of anonymity continue to keep up with innovation. Similar to Jennifer Shasky of FinCen, Mythili highlighted that current money laundering and criminal statutes are advanced enough to apply to virtual currencies and that money laundering statutes have been very effective thus far. She expressed the goal to send a message to illicit actors and keep pace with what is to come.
Edward W. Lowery III of the Secret Service concluded the panel to explain that the Secret Service must continue to adapt to changing threats and highlighted current efforts in place to aggressively and strategically investigate based in the confines of existing laws. Edward did recognize that technically gifted investigators are needed to tackle the new developments in the virtual currency space. Edward stated that the Secret Service attacks problems strategically and supports aggressive law enforcement. Chairman Carper concluded the first panel with recognition that the committee has an oversight role and a need to make sure that the current Administration is working in a cohesive and collaborative manner. Chairman Carper’s main question was, “Is it possible to reap the economic benefits of Bitcoin but at the same time clean up the criminal misbehavior that is out there?”
The second panel featured Ernie Allen (President and Chief Executive Officer, The International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children), Patrick Murck (General Counsel, The Bitcoin Foundation, Inc), Jeremy Allaire (Chief Executive Officer, Circle Internet Financial, Inc.) and Jerry Brito (Senior Research Fellow, The Mercatus Center, George Mason University). Ernie Allen began by addressing the quickening pace of innovation and pressed for global cooperation. Ernie stressed the need to ensure that any response from the government is not so draconian in nature. Ernie expressed his concerns relating to anonymity and stated that absolute internet anonymity is a set up for disaster. He emphasized that the committee cannot ignore the misuse of a digital currency but also acknowledged that Bitcoin is a global phenomena.
Patrick Murck from the Bitcoin Foundation discussed the global role of the Bitcoin Foundation. He stressed that Bitcoin increases dignity, liberty and self determination as many people are not banked in the US and abroad. He acknowledged that Bitcoin can be used for illicit purposes but Bitcoin is based on decentralized systems of open ledgers which are open and transparent. He asserted that Bitcoin does NOT pose a threat to the legal community and also stated that the Bitcoin Foundation thanks FinCen and hopes to continue to move forward with an open dialogue. He stated that there is a real need to create on ramps into the traditional financial system to protect the system from abuse. Current obstacles include the current fear of most banks to work with Bitcoin related businesses.
Jeremy Allaire, CEO of Circle followed Patrick Murck and highlighted that digital currency represents one of the most important technological developments of our time.He emphasized that outside of virtual currencies, there are generally high transaction fees and long periods of time between money transfers. Jeremy did stress the need for clearer guidelines as regulatory uncertainty will hold companies back from utilizing Bitcoin. He also noted that we are at another 20 year start of journey of internet development and that the open nature of Bitcoin and its development is a very positive framework. There is still tension regarding the balance between regulation and anonymity, yet Bitcoin offers great potential to lower the fraud risk when conducting payments as Bitcoin reduces risk and increases consumer privacy and is not subject to chargebacks.
Jerry Brito of the Mercatus Institute concluded the panel and began by stating that Digital Currencies are not new. Bitcoin has prospects for enduring value and is the world’s first completely decentralized global currency. Bitcoin makes possible transactions online that are peer to peer without chargebacks and little to no transaction fees. He agreed that there can be an assessment of the risks of emerging technologies but no need for new laws targeted at this specific technology. Jerry specifically highlighted that the US could lose a head start if regulations are slapped on to Bitcoin related businesses. Bitcoin is an open source project and community and currency providing more opportunities for consumers.
The final question of the hearing caused some laughter: “Who is this Satoshi Nakamoto?” Patrick Murck responded that “Satoshi Nakamoto is the pseudonym for this person or group of people who wrote the white paper,” and expressed that who Satoshi is, is largely irrelevant to the Bitcoin project moving forward as more than half the codebase has been written by others by this point. Senator Carper quoted Albert Einstein to conclude the hearing: “In adversity lies opportunity.”
What will come today with the Senate Banking hearing? Tune in at 3pm to see Bitcoin continue to dominate.
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