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Bitcoin The Almighty Buck The Courts United States

Federal Judge Declares Bitcoin a Currency 425

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-bet-the-IRS-just-got-excited dept.
tlhIngan writes "An East Texas federal judge has concluded that Bitcoin is a currency that can be regulated under American Law. The conclusion came during the trial of Trendon Shavers, who is accused of running the Bitcoin Savings and Trust (BTCST) as a Ponzi scheme. Shavers had argued that since the transactions were all done in Bitcoins, no money changed hands and thus the SEC has no jurisdiction. The judge found that since Bitcoins may be used to purchase goods and services, and more importantly, can be converted to conventional currencies, it is a form of currency (PDF) and investors wishing to invest in the BTCST provided an investment of money, and thus the SEC may regulate such business."
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Federal Judge Declares Bitcoin a Currency

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  • by xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @05:01PM (#44503113)

    “Government's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.”
      Ronald Reagan

    • by Kwyj1b0 (2757125) on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @05:09PM (#44503175)

      Of course, much better to live and die by the sword... err... Caveat emptor principles?

      While there are areas where regulations are silly, this (atleast on the face of it) doesn't seem to be one of those. The accused was running a ponzi scheme. The fact that the currency could be exchanged for real cash puts it in the SEC's realm.

      • The fact that the currency could be exchanged for real cash puts it in the SEC's realm

        Indeed, but the ruling that it's a currency is odd. The fact that it can be exchanged for 'real cash' means that it's a commodity, and so well within the SEC's mandate. A commodities exchange where you can only trade commodities for other commodities, but have to make the exchanges to currency elsewhere is still an exchange that can be regulated by the SEC.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Which incidentally is the proper method of operation. Government exists to maintain homeostasis of the population. Safety nets prevent complete failures and taxes limit hoarding of success. That's why we only tax a businesses profits, to encourage them to spend more of their revenues and push cash into the economy. No business is overtaxed, because a business that pays any taxes at all is doing it wrong. If your business is going to owe money on April 15th then you need to lower your profits to the ideal 0-

    • by girlintraining (1395911) on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @05:48PM (#44503595)

      âoeGovernment's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.â -- Ronald Reagan

      All of this depends on the government's ability to find the bitcoins, and then provide some kind of evidence that it was exchanged for something. If I transfer funds from my checking to savings accounts, that isn't taxed because no goods or services were exchanged.

      The government can try to regulate it, but it'll be as successful as the IRS demanding people pay taxes on their purchases of marijuana. Now yes, they'll pass a law anyway, and yes they'll spend an exorbinant amount of money to prove they can enforce it and then make an example out of a few people in highly-publicized cases, but they won't change things substantially.

      This will rapidly evolve into another "war on _________", with innocent people being caught in dragnets while the guilty ones rapidly develop the skills to evade it. It's like big banks -- they were too big to fail, and so they were also too big to jail. The government doesn't take down large organizations, criminal or legal... it goes after the people who are isolated. It goes after the low hanging fruit... and it hopes that scares enough people off to keep them in line.

      But business will go on as well as ever... already, people using the Silk Road website within Tor have started switching over to virtual machines that do not store any persistent state information... in the next few weeks, I expect many, if not most, will be. Criminals adapt in a matter of hours or days... law enforcement adapts in a matter of months or years. It's not hard to see who has the upper hand here.

      • âoeGovernment's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.â -- Ronald Reagan

        All of this depends on the government's ability to find the bitcoins, and then provide some kind of evidence that it was exchanged for something. If I transfer funds from my checking to savings accounts, that isn't taxed because no goods or services were exchanged.

        The government can try to regulate it, but it'll be as successful as the IRS demanding people pay taxes on their purchases of marijuana. Now yes, they'll pass a law anyway, and yes they'll spend an exorbinant amount of money to prove they can enforce it and then make an example out of a few people in highly-publicized cases, but they won't change things substantially.

        This will rapidly evolve into another "war on _________", with innocent people being caught in dragnets while the guilty ones rapidly develop the skills to evade it. It's like big banks -- they were too big to fail, and so they were also too big to jail. The government doesn't take down large organizations, criminal or legal... it goes after the people who are isolated. It goes after the low hanging fruit... and it hopes that scares enough people off to keep them in line.

        But business will go on as well as ever... already, people using the Silk Road website within Tor have started switching over to virtual machines that do not store any persistent state information... in the next few weeks, I expect many, if not most, will be. Criminals adapt in a matter of hours or days... law enforcement adapts in a matter of months or years. It's not hard to see who has the upper hand here.

        Don't underestimate the power of the government.

        When you transfer money from checking to savings and back, they don't care. At the moment, anyway.

        But when you transfer money from either of the above into or out of an IRA, it's totally different. And you will very swiftly discover that yes, the goddam gubmint keeps a very close eye on how you move your money around, even though it may technically may have no more "changed hands" than a checking/savings transfer.

        Goods and services aren't really what gets taxe

  • I can barter my services for goods or other services. Trade one item for another. So, effectively, then this ruling would seem to imply everything is currency, and thus subject to SEC regulation in the States.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The government gets to make more subtle judgements than you claim to recognize. Usually we discover this as we grow up. Sometimes not, however.

    • by segin (883667) <segin2005@gmail.com> on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @05:15PM (#44503243) Homepage
      A currency is any intermediary storage of value between two exchanges, that serves as a "means" but not an "end".
      • by Rockoon (1252108) on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @05:29PM (#44503397)
        So energy is currency?
    • Now you're getting it.

    • by tnk1 (899206) on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @05:33PM (#44503433)

      You barter with the intrinsic value of the items. If you need boots and can offer a hat or dinners for them, you do that because you need boots to walk in, and the guy with the boots needs to eat or needs to cover his head.

      Currency is a representation of value as an abstract. It's useful because it lets us set prices without having to negotiate barter, or more importantly, to have to produce and carry around things that we believe we could barter.

      However, because currency does not have an intrinsic value by itself, it can be manipulated and used in certain ways that are not naturally regulated. In that sense, currency needs some sort of regulation. I don't know how much, and I think it should be as little as required, but I can accept that it may need a lot.

      Bitcoin may be backed by some sort of store of abstract value, but it has no intrinsic value on its own. There is nothing you can do with a Bitcoin other than use it to buy something else. In that sense, it is a currency and is nothing like barter.

      • by Nutria (679911)

        currency does not have an intrinsic value

        Unless the currency is backed by something tangible and rare (typically gold and/or silver).

        • by Agent ME (1411269) <agentme49&gmail,com> on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @05:54PM (#44503655)

          The value of gold and silver isn't because of any intrinsic values they have besides rarity. (Yes, I know there are industrial uses of them, but that's not the driving force behind their price.) Good currency similarly also has a limited supply.

          • by pipatron (966506)
            Actually also because they are noble metals, and won't randomly corrode and spoil after long storage.
          • by Nutria (679911)

            isn't because of any intrinsic values

            That's why I wrote tangible instead of intrinsic.

        • Bitcoin is backed by something rare (even if not tangible). It is backed by the solutions to hard math problems, which are just as hard to acquire in terms of expended resources as precious metals are. This is why there is an exchange rate from gold to bitcoins, even if it fluctuates.
        • by TapeCutter (624760) on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @06:38PM (#44504017) Journal
          The fact that gold and can be traded for goods and services has nothing to do with it's intrinsic value, it's intrinsic value is virtually zero to everyone outside the electronics industry. Intrinsic value is a measure of usefulness, eg: Compared to gold, trees are abundant, they provide wood, food, and suck up CO2, thus they have a much higher intrinsic value than gold.

          A one to one exchange of goods/services with intrinsic value is called bartering. Currency is anything used as a token to simplify trading where more than one exchange would be required to get the goods what you want. Something durable and hard to obtain such as gold is ideal for those tokens. Problem with that scheme is the economy now has an artificial growth boundary defined by the supply of gold. Of course when politicians start firing missiles at each other people will be drawn to the "safe haven" of gold, but the fact is currently "the market" sees US treasury bonds as "safer than gold".
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Laxori666 (748529)

        However, because currency does not have an intrinsic value by itself, it can be manipulated and used in certain ways that are not naturally regulated. In that sense, currency needs some sort of regulation. I don't know how much, and I think it should be as little as required, but I can accept that it may need a lot.

        Oh, so woefully backwards. Nutria who said "Unless the currency is backed by something tangible and rare" also has it quite backwards.

        Money naturally evolved as a good, just like any other. It has the same price mechanism as any other good, that is - whatever somebody is willing to pay for it. Money is just a good which a lot of people happen to want because a lot of other people also want it. So you get gold, silver, salt, etc., naturally used as money. You know if you take a bit of gold for your hat, yo

    • ...this ruling would seem to imply everything is currency, and thus subject to SEC regulation in the States.

      Thank you for your cooperation citizen. Extra soylent rations for you.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      "I can barter my services for goods or other services. Trade one item for another. So, effectively, then this ruling would seem to imply everything is currency, and thus subject to SEC regulation in the States."

      United States Constitution, Article 1, Section 10:

      "No state shall enter into any treaty, alliance, or confederation; grant letters of marque and reprisal; coin money; emit bills of credit; make anything but gold and silver coin a tender in payment of debts; ..."

      While the Federal government has the Constitutional power to coin money, it does not have the power to declare anything it wants to be money. Everything has value. That doesn't mean everything can be regulated as money.

      People have argued that Article 1, Section 10 applies only to States. And that may be true, but it doesn't matter. If a State may not accept (or force anyone to accept) anything but gold and silver as payment, then gold and silver are in pr

      • by DaHat (247651) on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @05:56PM (#44503675) Homepage

        *facepalm*

        People have argued that Article 1, Section 10 applies only to States

        Given Article 1 Section 10 starts with "No state" and follows with a list of prohibited items... there isn't much of an argument.

        You are also ignoring Article 1 Section 8 which says (regarding the powers of congress):

        To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures;

        So no, gold and silver aren't the only constitutional forms of currency, congress alone has the authority to print (fiat) money as they see fit. If states wish to create their own, then it must have an actual recognized value (ie precious metal) rather than be fiat currency.

    • by hedwards (940851)

      The SEC regulates this because the BTC is being treated like a commodity. People are buying the BTC with the hopes of selling it later on. Making it similar to people who buy barrels of oil to sell at a future date. And like those oil barrels, there's people buying and selling purely as a way of profiting on movements in the price of the commodity.

      Bartering is normally just trading one item for another item. Now, you might then take that item you got and trade it to somebody else, but you're not usually try

      • Barter networks are kinda halfway between.

        I do something for you and get credit in the system.

        I use those credit to get something from a person besides you.

    • by jxander (2605655)
      Quoth the Joker : That's the point.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I don't know the SEC, but the IRS has had rules on this forever.

      http://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&-Self-Employed/Bartering-Tax-Center

      I don't know why more people don't know about this... this was covered in elementary school for me. All part of some unit on early American life and how some places still barter instead of using money -- but they still are supposed to pay taxes. (Kinda hard to enforce, but they try.)

  • by Entropius (188861) on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @05:09PM (#44503177)

    Bitcoin is a currency that can be regulated under American Law

    Well, yes. When has the government ever ruled that it lacks the power to regulate something?

    The motivation behind Bitcoin wasn't to create a currency that government would choose not to regulate; it was to create one that government could not regulate.

    • The US government can't regulation bitcoins. But it can regulate businesses based in the US.

      • by tnk1 (899206)

        The US government *CAN* regulate bitcoins, it's just not going to be able to enforce it where it does not have jurisdiction.

        The Legislature can make any law that is not unconstitutional, and it can affect non-citizens. The only issue becomes one of practicality and foreign relations. Don't confuse legality of the law with its enforcement. There are a number of laws out there that provide for universal jurisdiction, even though the laws cannot be enforced realistically outside of the place that made the l

      • by hedwards (940851)

        Sure they can. They can arguably prosecute the individuals that are creating these BTC on US soil. Under http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/486 [cornell.edu]

        It's something that would have to be tested in the courts as the statute literally only applies to physical currency, however, with so much "money" these days being digital only, it would seem that the USC would have to be interpreted to include those digital dollars as well.

        Ultimately, if not, then the code will likely need to be updated to deal with that cha

        • by OneAhead (1495535)

          Oh, wouldn't it be a funny twist if BC mining suddenly turns out to be illegal. Not that I'd expect any federal/state justice system to be that retarded. Then again, after Citizens United (or, at the state level, the stand-your-ground laws), pretty much anything is possible.

          One could say: "doesn't matter, most BC have been mined already", but I'm not sure how long the statute of limitations on "counterfeiting" is...

          • by Entropius (188861)

            The "stand your ground" laws are not the demon you think they are.

            They say, generally, that if you are confronted with the threat of "serious bodily harm" (defined in AZ as "physical injury that creates a reasonable risk of death, or that causes serious and permanent disfigurement, serious impairment of health or loss or protracted impairment of the function of any bodily organ or limb"), you can defend yourself even if you possibly could have run away, provided that you are not doing anything illegal and p

        • The United States can pass a regulation that all aliens in the universe must use US dollars as their currency, but they will not be able to enforce it.

          The US may one day, if extremely lucky, be able to imprison or kill a few aliens for violating US law, just like how the US may imprison a few people for using bitcoin, but that is not really "enforcement" in any meaningful sense.

    • The motivation behind Bitcoin wasn't to create a currency that government would choose not to regulate; it was to create one that government could not regulate.

      In theory the government can't regulate cash changing hands either. That won't stop them from bringing you up on charges of tax fraud if you're found out and you didn't file that income on your taxes.

      If that was the thinking behind Bitcoin maybe that should have been thought over a little better.

      • by Entropius (188861)

        Sure. The whole point of Bitcoin is to establish something that makes it harder for them to "find out".

      • If that was the thinking behind Bitcoin maybe that should have been thought over a little better.

        Who knows what the person who made bitcoin thought. We don't even know who he/she is.

        What we do know is that Bitcoin is not able to be controlled by any individual or government. At least not in the way that it can control currency that it prints.

        For example, while the US is probably powerful enough to affect gold prices, it can not control the price of gold because it can not prevent people from mining or selling gold in other places around the world. It is even easier to avoid detection with in the cas

    • by TheCarp (96830)

      > When has the government ever ruled that it lacks the power to regulate something?

      When it relates to shooting children in a school zone. There was, briefly, a federal law punishing use of firearms in a school zone under the idea that since they could regulate commerce, and guns and ammo are sold on the market, it was all good. The Supreme Court, rightfully if you ask me (if the your state can't pass a law against shooting kids, is that really a federal problem?), decided that this did not hold muster.

      Wh

      • by Zordak (123132) on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @06:18PM (#44503867) Homepage Journal

        What pisses me off, of course, is not this ruling, as I said, its a local/state problem at best, and already taken care of by the majority of states, but that it was held up as the first time in 40 years that the commerce clause had struck ANYTHING down.

        I mean seriously, this clause has been extended to apply to a farmer who would rather grow his own feed (apparently "not participating in the market" is a market activity and still subject to regulation) than buy it.... using it at all to strike down anything at this point is the height of ridiculousness.

        This case is Wickard v. Filburn, 317 U.S. 111 (1942) for those who are interested. Old farmer Filburn was charged with growing too much wheat. He argued that the federal government had no jurisdiction to regulate wheat he grew on his own farm for his own consumption. The Supreme Court held that by growing and eating his own wheat, he was failing to buy wheat in interstate commerce like a good little subject. The next time the Supreme Court struck down a federal statute under the Commerce Clause was United States v. Lopez, 514 U.S. 549 (1995), where the Court struck down the Federal Gun-Free School Zones Act. This was a big victory for Justice Rhenquist, who was on a quest to reign in the Commerce Clause. However, his successor, Justice Roberts, although considered a pariah and arch-conservative by the Left, has shown less will to do so. Notably, in his Obamacare decision, he gave a nod to the commerce clause, but then blasted a big old hole in the Constitution by saying basically that Congress could do anything they wanted to as long as they pretended it was a tax.

    • SEC has lost (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      To sum up, he took Bitcoins for trading into and out of dollars and returned a huge profit (in dollars). But when measured in Bitcoins he returned a loss, investors could have gotten more by sticking to pure Bitcoins, than any dollar trading minus his commissions. So they complained. Not really a Ponzi scheme, but SEC thinks they can use that law.

      This really says more about the dollar than anything else. There are 3 times as many dollars now as in 2000 and at no time has there been any export surplus in any

      • Re:SEC has lost (Score:5, Insightful)

        by fastest fascist (1086001) on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @05:30PM (#44503417)
        I don't know where you get your information from. Shavers took deposits in bitcoins, promising to pay out again in bitcoins, with 7% or so weekly interest. The payouts went out for quite some time, presumably funded by new deposits, and then Shavers simply did a runner with the bitcoins he had accumulated. So it was very much a classic Ponzi scam.
    • The motivation behind Bitcoin wasn't to create a currency that government would choose not to regulate; it was to create one that government could not regulate.

      Unfortunately while bitcoins design makes it difficult to regulate there are still a few options governments have.

      One option is the ."51% attack". If a party has control of more hashing power than the rest of the network put together then they can arbitrarily block transactions they don't like from properly confirming. I'm quite sure if the US goverment chose to do so they could do this, it's a question of whether they would consider it worth committing those resources.

      Another option is to go after the exch

      • by pipatron (966506)

        One option is the ."51% attack". If a party has control of more hashing power than the rest of the network put together then they can arbitrarily block transactions they don't like from properly confirming. I'm quite sure if the US goverment chose to do so they could do this, it's a question of whether they would consider it worth committing those resources.

        The computing power in the bitcoin pool today is 8 times [qz.com] the computing power of the top 500 fastest super computers in the world combined.

        Even if NSA, Russia and China have more powerful setups than what's on the official Top 500 list (and I'm sure they do), it would take an immense effort to create something matching.

        • The computing power in the bitcoin pool today is 8 times the computing power of the top 500 fastest super computers in the world combined.

          Keep in mind that a lot of that computing power in the pool currently comes from ASICs, some FPGAs, a bunch of GPUs, and oodles of CPUs from users who forgot to disable CPU mining/giving up entirely.

          Basically, a few ASICs will easily outclass a supercomputer for the specific task of Bitcoin mining.

          So while all the supercomputers combined would bring nothing beefy to the t

        • The computing power in the bitcoin pool today is 8 times [qz.com] the computing power of the top 500 fastest super computers in the world combined.

          That article stinks of BS. It claims "The bitcoin network also qualifies as the world’s first exascale computer, meaning it’s capable of a quintillion floating point calculations per second.". The source seems to trace back to http://www.bitcoinwatch.com/ [bitcoinwatch.com] who quote a "Network Hashrate PetaFLOPS" but don't seem to indicate how they come up with that number.

          AIUI bitcoin mining is a purely integer process. My guess is they looked at the performance of a typica GPU at a floating point benchmark and

    • by jxander (2605655)
      It happened once. [wikipedia.org]
  • Sex (Score:2, Offtopic)

    Substitute "Sex" for "Bitcoin" and see if this holds true.

    Sex may be used to purchase goods and services, and more importantly, can be converted to conventional currencies, it is a form of currency

    Yup, it fits. Sex is now under regulation of the SEC.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      This is BS. You can't convert sex to money after you received it - that's the difference between a service and a currency.

      • by c0lo (1497653)

        This is BS.

        (Ummm... let's try)
        "BS is a currency and can be regulated under American Law"...
        Hey, wad'da ya know? Great insight, buddy, it fits!

    • Re:Sex (Score:5, Insightful)

      by arth1 (260657) on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @05:25PM (#44503363) Homepage Journal

      Yup, it fits. Sex is now under regulation of the SEC.

      I'm sorry, but no. Any person receiving bitcoins can sell them for dollars. That does not hold true for sex.

    • Re:Sex (Score:4, Funny)

      by tnk1 (899206) on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @05:43PM (#44503533)

      Paid for sex is a service, not a currency. You can't return or convert the sex as an abstract unit of value. It is not a currency.

    • by jxander (2605655)
      Beer may be used to purchased goods and services, and may be converted to conventional currencies. Beer is a form of currency.
      • by Agent ME (1411269)

        Beer isn't very fungible. There's many different types of it, there's varying qualities, and age can affect it. Any dollar is as valuable as any other dollar.

        • by jxander (2605655)

          I'm pretty sure it only gets fungible if you leave it out in the sun too long. But yes, it can go bad. So can dollar bills. They get ripped, torn, washed, lost, etc. I will admit that coins are a bit more resilient than beer.

          As for the varying types/qualities ... there are how many different forms of currency? US Dollars, Yen, Canadian Dollars, Euros, Aussie Dollars, Bitcoins, Bahamian dollar, etc. We just need some people to track the exchange rate of beer. A 6-pack of Stone IPA is worth at least

    • by Greyfox (87712)
      Well... That's going to make the jobs in accounting MUCH more interesting!
  • Personally, I think the definition of currency is unclear. If its not "legal tender", or in other words not officially declared as money accepted for paying taxes (by fiat) , then shouldn't it NOT be considered a currency, in the same way that Gold is not considered a currency (unless it is officially stamped as such by fiat). To be a currency, some official government must declare it as official for paying taxes IMHO. So, for a judge to declare Bitcoin as a currency is ridiculous because, for it to be so, he himself would have to be willing to accept it , and then turn around and pay taxes with it.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Euros are not legal tender in the USA; but they are currency. If I have Euros and want to buy something in the USA, the merchant will usually refuse them.

      Gold and silver are listed on the currency exchanges even though they are not issued by a government. They are both commodities *and* currencies.

      BTC is arguably more of a currency than gold or silver. Unlike metal, it's useful only as a medium of exchange.

    • I think the definition tends to be unclear when people want it to be unclear. Not saying that it isn't unclear, but from the Bitcoin reddits, bitcointalk, etc. it becomes pretty clear that a lot of Bitcoin users want Bitcoin to be a currency one way (use it to pay everywhere, getting everybody and their dog to accept it, create physical tokens embodying a particular Bitcoin value, etc.), but abhor the idea of it being a currency in other ways (regulation, taxation, etc.)

      Can't really have it both ways.

  • A couple thousand alternative currencies such as Bitcoin started surfacing? What would happen when the economy is completely watered down with different types of currencies just because people started using them as heavily as Bitcoin?

    The IRS can "legally" tax barter agreements for their monetary value, just to tax trade.

    I'm getting an image of an arrogant, bratty red faced child with their hands out, waiting for their piece of cake.

    If Bitcoin can't exist outside of the economic iron fist, then what possibil

  • by Tailhook (98486) on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @05:30PM (#44503413)

    From the tippy-top of the bitcoin.org [bitcoin.org] website:

    Bitcoin is an innovative payment network and a new kind of money.

    Now, IANAL, but I suspect walking into court with an argument that bitcoin isn't a new kind of money when its creators clearly and demonstrably assert that it is a new kind of money is likely to fail pretty hard.

    And yes, I'm well aware of the of the distinction between money and currency. Gold bugs, sufferers [ronpaul.com] of Fed derangement syndrome and others spend a lot of time proselytizing about this stuff. The thing is that the SEC and the courts don't, which is why no one has ever succeeded in evading financial laws by attacking the legitimacy of fiat money.

    At least not without an army.

    • by Tokolosh (1256448)

      Good point. But I think the operative words are "kind of". Just like cigarettes were a kind of money after WW2 in Germany.

      Euros are money. Does that mean the SEC can regulate them?

  • fantasy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by PopeRatzo (965947) on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @05:45PM (#44503557) Homepage Journal

    Was there really anyone who believed that bitcoin was somehow going to exist outside of the ability of any government to regulate it?

    That belief reminds me of the "sovereign citizens" who believe that some obscure 19th century district judge's decision puts them outside of the federal and state government's ability to prosecute them for any crimes.

    • Re:fantasy (Score:5, Insightful)

      by deego (587575) on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @07:54PM (#44504645)

      >> Was there really anyone who believed that bitcoin was somehow going to exist outside of the ability of any government to regulate it?

      The creators of bitcoin were under no such illusion. Heck, they did label it a 'currency.' They did, however, assume, and correctly so, that the Fed won't by able to create more bitcoins out of thin air.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @05:48PM (#44503593)

    The Judge didnt rule that bitcoin is a Currency, from the PDF:

    "Therefore, the Court finds that the BTCST investments meet the definition of investment
    contract, and as such, are securities.2
      For these reasons, the Court finds that it has subject matter "

    It clearly says that it find that BTCST is subject to law. no ruling related to Bitcoins. move along nothing to see here

  • The government hates competition.

  • If Bitcoin are a currency because of its attributes (convertibility, common use), what does that mean for "Virtual Currencies" that can be converted back to monetary value?

    EVE online? Second Life? Does this ruling apply to them? (I do not play either, I just recall stories...)

  • Is the SEC going to send virtual regulators into Second Life?
  • by OneAhead (1495535) on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @07:08PM (#44504251)

    And here I was thinking the Bitcoin fanbois would be falling over themselves declaring how it is a milestone that Bitcoin is officially recognized as a legitimate currency. Instead, they seem to be falling over themselves expressing how scandalous it is that the government dares meddle with their freedom or whatever. Some people seem to be impossible to please. To those people: you cannot have it both ways, guys. Either your currency is an illegitimate shadow currency, and assuming it will keep on gaining in popularity, it will only be a matter of time before it gets outlawed, or your currency is legitimate which means that transactions made with it are subject to the law.

    Regardless, I would say that seeing this as a sign of legitimacy would be over-interpreting the verdict. For the purpose of cracking down on ponzi schemes, it doesn't matter whether the currency is USD or beanie babies, as long as harm is done to someone's posessions by deliberately misleading them. Or does "freedom" mean that you're free to blatantly rip off your fellow citizens? If so, how about just giving people the freedom to shoot each other? Oh wait, stand-your-ground.

  • by golodh (893453) on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @07:14PM (#44504307)
    If it looks like money and acts like money ... it is money, and hence subject to regulation. Silly to assume otherwise really.

    And yes, tough luck for people who thought they could make an end-run around regulations and taxation by coming up with an "unofficial" new currency.

    As long as bitcoin was a fringe phenomenon it could be ignored, but now it's time for it to grow up apparently.

  • I don't think ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PPH (736903) on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @07:17PM (#44504345)

    ... people get the difference between money and being subject to SEC regulations. Money is a medium of trade and exchange, of which Bitcoin is a kind. Fine. You get paid in Bitcoin, you'd better report it to the IRS.

    Making Bitcoin subject to SEC regulations is a whole other issue, with additional requirements. The SEC regulates (most*) securities and imposes requirements such as registration and transaction reporting. This is far beyond the sort of regulation applied to money. When was the last time you had to report the serial numbers on all the currency you held?

    So, which is it? A currency, subject to income reporting rules? Or a security, under the SEC's authority? IANAL, so I'd really like some enlightened input on what is being decided here.

    *Derivatives and commodity contracts are subject to CFTC regulation.

    • by mysidia (191772)

      So, which is it? A currency, subject to income reporting rules? Or a security, under the SEC's authority? IANAL, so I'd really like some enlightened input on what is being decided here.

      Arguably neither. You can convert your warcraft gold into US Dollars; that doesn't make your warcraft gold money.

      Arguably bitcoin could be not a security, and "Bitcoin Savings and Trust" still subject to SEC regulation, and could be a ponzi scheme --- not because bitcoin was a currency, but because They promi

That does not compute.

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