Monthly Archives: May 2013

EFF Is Accepting Bitcoins Again

EFF Will Accept Bitcoins to Support Digital Liberty. This follows a 2-year moratorium.

One key difference from past practice: EFF will liquidate any Bitcoins it receives as soon as it gets them.

EFF’s announcement pointed me to this recent (March 18, 2013) Fincen guidance document, Application of FinCEN’s Regulations to Persons Administering, Exchanging, or Using Virtual Currencies which I had missed. Key graph:

A user who obtains convertible virtual currency and uses it to purchase real or virtual goods or services is not an MSB [Money Services Businesses] under FinCEN’s regulations. Such activity, in and of itself, does not fit within the definition of “money transmission services” and therefore is not subject to FinCEN’s registration, reporting, and recordkeeping regulations for MSBs.

Posted in Cryptography, Econ & Money | Leave a comment

The Red Lionfish of Politics

How can this be?

Most people are now familiar with President’s Obama’s proposal to cut Social Security by reducing the annual cost of living adjustment. While the final formula is somewhat convoluted, the net effect is to reduce benefits by an average of roughly 3.0 percent.

Since Social Security benefits account for more than 70 percent of the income of a typical retiree, this cut is more than a 2.0 percent reduction in income. By comparison, a wealthy couple earning $500,000 a year would see a hit to their after-tax income of just 0.6 percent from the tax increase that President Obama put in place last year.

While President Obama is willing to make seniors pay a price for the economic crisis, his administration his unwilling to impose any burdens on Wall Street. Specifically, it has consistently opposed a Wall Street speculation tax: effectively a sales tax on trades of stock and derivatives. The Obama administration has even used its power to try to block efforts by European countries to impose their own taxes on financial speculation.

If the idea of taxing stock trades sounds strange, it shouldn’t. The United States used to impose a tax of 0.04 percent until Wall Street lobbied to eliminate it in the mid-1960s. Many countries, including the United Kingdom, Switzerland, China, and India already impose taxes on stock trades.

Oh, wait, it’s simple:

Wall Street bankers have a lot more political power than old and disabled people who depend on Social Security. That is why President Obama is working to protect the former and cut benefits for the latter.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, let me repeat two things I’ve said often before:

1. We need a Tobin Tax too.

2. Consider this administration the flowering of the Nelson Rockefeller wing of the GOP. Obama governs like the moderate-liberal Republicans of my youth — a species now all but extinct in its original habitat, but thriving like red lionfish in their new home.

Posted in Econ: Social Security, Politics: US | 4 Comments

Space Derivations (Odd)

The internets are going nuts over this stunning video remake of David Bowie’s Space Oddity, recorded by Commander Chris Hadfield on board the International Space Station.

It’s a visually stunning video, a fun idea, the law prof discussion about the copyright implications of creating a derivative work in space have been loads of fun … but I still can’t help but think that Commander Hadfield’s revisions (made for understandable reasons) took out the sting that made the original song so great back in the early ’70s when they just didn’t play stuff like that on the radio.

But wait. It seems that the canonical version isn’t even the original! In hunting for the version I of the song I knew, I found this subtly weird, and in one place [circa 2:26] quite awful, version that is apparently part of an original 1969 video. I’ll stick with the ’70s version, thank you.

Posted in Kultcha | Leave a comment

Rep. Ros-Lehtinen Votes Against Overtime Pay

Sooner or later, a record of voting against your constituents’ interests has to catch up with you, no matter how nice you are. Our own IRL voted to allow employers to take away overtime pay, which is currently required by law. Instead she would allow employers to choose to give workers comp time for overtime, and keep the money. The bill would disproportionately hurt women and mothers.

Stuff like this should case you electoral trouble. Unless of course the other party gives you a free pass.

Posted in Politics: FL-18 | Leave a comment

Mary Anne Franks Profiled in Ocean Drive

Mary Anne FranksMy colleague Mary Anne Franks is the subject of an unusual (for a law professor) profile in the current issue of Ocean Drive magazine. For those unfamiliar with Ocean Drive, it is a big thick glossy thing aimed squarely at the handmaidens of the plutocracy. The magazine celebrates Miami’s (and especially Miami Beach’s) moneyed party-goers, and is stuffed with ads for wildly expensive clothing and jewelery. In between the ads there are little articles about photogenic local celebutantes and charity party-goers. As far as I know, in 20 years in Miami I have never attended an event covered by Ocean Drive, but then again I’m hardly a regular reader. The thing does appear in the mail at my house — I’m guessing I got on their mailing list by subscribing to the Economist, which says something about either the Economist or Ocean Drive‘s demographic assumptions.

Anyway, Mary Anne is not Ocean Drive‘s covergirl — that’s a Bond girl — but she is the background for the table of contents, which must be the next best thing, and the subject of a writeup that begins, “Mary Anne Franks could shatter your kneecap if she wanted to” and goes on to discuss her expertise in Krav Maga, an Israeli martial art; it also touches on her expertise as a feminist legal thinker.

Before joining the Miami Law faculty, Mary Anne Franks was a Bigelow Fellow and Lecturer in Law at the University of Chicago Law School. She received her J.D. from Harvard Law School in 2007. She received her D.Phil in 2004 and her M.Phil in 2001 from Oxford University, where she studied on a Rhodes Scholarship. Mary Anne’s latest article is How to Feel Like a Woman, or, Why Punishment Is a Drag, which is forthcoming in the UCLA Law Review.

Posted in The Media, U.Miami | Leave a comment

Sanctions Order in Prenda Law Case

Judge Otis Wright issued a doozy of a sanctions order against Prenda Law, the notorious copyright trolls.

I could have done without the Star Trek references, but given the overall context of the case, footnote five did make me laugh long and loud.

Normally, I worry that when Judges try to write creative orders they are reversal bait. In this case, the conduct appears to be so bad, and the punitive sanctions mild in context, so I don’t think that’s a major risk.

Ars Technica has been all over this story if you need background. The transcripts of the hearings are amazing reading.

Update: JT points me to the font of all things Prenda, Popehat.

Posted in Law: Copyright and DMCA | Leave a comment