Four MIT students behind an award-winning Bitcoin mining tool will face off against New Jersey state authorities in court today when they attempt to fight back against a subpoena demanding their source code.
Although there is currently no indictment or pending criminal charges against Rubin and his friends, state authorities have indicated that they believe the researchers may have violated state laws. The case marks a disturbing trend among authorities to go after researchers, innovators, tinkerers and others who try to do cutting-edge projects to help the tech community, says EFF staff attorney Hanni Fakhoury.
“It’s a very broad subpoena that hints at criminal liability and civil liability,” he says. “For a bunch of college kids who put something together for a hackathon—they didn’t make any money, the project never got off the ground and now is completely disbanded—there are some very serious implications.”
“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 noted in a statement about the case. “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.”