Edition No. 34
SEC Ramped Crypto Enforcement; Celsius Depositors; IRS on Crypto Donations & Losses; Update on Yuga Labs v. Ryder Ripps; and more. Cryptolaw news from 1/16/23 - 1/21/23.
Welcome back to Around the Blockchain, the weekly letter dedicated to keeping readers like you up to date on the fast-paced world of Crypto & Law by airdropping current stories directly to your browser.
Table of Contents:
1. On the Docket (Top Stories of the Week)
2. Podcasts, Videos, & Blogs (The faces, voices, and pens of Web3’s brightest contributors)
3. Bird Watching (Tweet, tweet!)
4. The Public Ledger
5. Closing Statements
On the Docket
Five things you might have missed last week:
SEC Ramps Up the Crypto Crack Downs
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) brought 30 cryptocurrency-related enforcement actions in 2022, a 50% increase from 2021 and the highest number since 2013, according to a Cornerstone Research report. The report revealed that the SEC brought 24 litigations and six administrative proceedings related to cryptocurrency in 2022, up from 14 litigations and six administrative proceedings in 2021. The SEC has sharpened its focus on cryptocurrency lending and trading platforms and decentralized finance platforms under the current Chairman, Gary Gensler.
Hard Earned Lesson for Some Celsius Depositors
The court, however, did not extend its ruling to include assets in Celsius’ non-interest-bearing accounts such as the Custody Program, Withhold Accounts, or Borrow Program.
"Customers will also not be precluded from bringing claims for breach of contract, fraud, or other theories of liability, and will retain unsecured claims against Celsius."
New Regs, Who Dis?
UK government department, His Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC), introduced new regulations deeming certain crypto assets “investment transactions” subject to the UK’s Investment Manager Exemption (IME).
The regulations define “cryptoasset” as:
“a digital representation of value that relies on a cryptographically secured distributed ledger or a similar technology to validate and secure transactions”.
The new regs are effective as of the 2022-2023 tax year (for non-corporate entities) and accounting periods current as of Dec. 19, 2022, and onwards (for corporate entities).
This means UK-based investment managers can now domestically trade certain crypto assets directly as opposed to only engaging in futures trading, options trading, or trading outside the UK. Additionally, the regulatory change nullifies the risk of the non-UK fund vehicle becoming subject to UK tax.
The extension of the investment transactions list applies only to the UK IME and is not extended to other UK tax legislation such as authorized investment funds, exempt unauthorized unit trusts, or investment trust companies, though regulators left the door open to this possibility in the undefined future.
IRS Tells it Like it is... Probably Going to Be
The IRS has recently released two chief counsel memoranda addressing cryptocurrency donations and cryptocurrency tax losses. One memorandum stated that a taxpayer that donates cryptocurrency and seeks a charitable contribution deduction of more than $5,000, must obtain a qualified appraisal to qualify for the deduction. The second memorandum stated that a taxpayer that owns cryptocurrency that has substantially declined in value has not sustained a cryptocurrency loss due to worthlessness or abandonment of the cryptocurrency. These memoranda provide on the issues of crypto losses and charitable donations.
Judge Slaps Down anti-SLAPP motion in Yuga Labs Suit
A federal district judge in California recently denied an anti-SLAPP motion and motion to dismiss in an action filed against artist Ryder Ripps and numerous codefendants by Yuga Labs, the creator behind the iconic Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTs.
Ripps and his partners are being sued by Yuga for trademark infringement and other related claims over their use of BAYC marks in the Ryder Ripps/BAYC NFT collection (RR/BAYC). Defendants argue RR/BAYC does not constitute infringement but is rather "appropriation art" bringing attention to Yuga's use of racist and neo-Nazi imagery.
The court ruled defendants' actions were “commercial activities designed to sell infringing products” and thus not protected by the First Amendment. The court further found such use of BAYC marks were misleading and not artistically relevant.
Ripps et al have filed a notice of appeal with the Ninth Circuit on the district court’s anti-SLAPP ruling—appellate briefs are due Feb. 21, 2023. Defendants have concurrently asserted six counterclaims and seek a declaratory judgment of no copyright in the BAYC images.
Discovery is ongoing amidst vigorous litigation, including an order denying Yuga’s ex parte motion to prevent co-founders Wylie Aranow and Greg Solano from being deposed.
A jury trial is scheduled for June 27, 2023.
Podcasts, Videos, and Blogs
The brightest voices & sharpest pens:
Law of Code - Jacob sits down with Aaron Wright (@awrigh01) who is the CEO and co-founder of @TributeLabsXYZ, as well as @TheLAOOfficial, @flamingoDAO, & many more.
Bankless - The Bankless team discusses all the crypto news that took place in the 3rd week of January including the SEC v Gemini, Genesis’s bankruptcy, and a new 3AC Exchange!
Bloomberg - Bloomberg crypto blogger Emily Nicole is joined by two lawyers to discuss the legal fallout from FTX’s bankruptcy!
DAO Talk - DAO Talk recaps all the DAO news from the week including Bankless DAO x Coordinape governance issues, the World Economic Forum’s DAO report, and much more!
Unchained - Laura Shin sits down with Maria Shen, partner at Electric Capital, to unpack the venture firm’s latest Developer Report and dive deep into why developers are continuing to build despite the bear market!
Tweet, Tweet, Tweet!
Federal prosecutors seized nearly $700 million in cash and assets connected to Sam Bankman-Fried, court filings from Friday show, primarily in the form of Robinhood shares. Three accounts were at Silvergate Bank and held U.S. dollars in the name of FTX Digital Markets, a Bahamian subsidiary.
The Public Ledger
Highlights from the hundreds of sources gathered each week by our research AI. Always DYOR - but in case you don’t have time, here’s some of ours:
General News and Opinion
U.S. - Federal
U.S. - State Law
Around the Blockchain News announcement:
We’re happy to announce our partnership with LexDAO and Law of Code podcast!
We want to hear from you:
If you enjoyed what you read today, subscribe to receive the weekly publication and give the authors a follow on Twitter for updates on what’s next for the newsletter!
If you didn’t enjoy it, let us know why! We value the opinion of our readers above all else. After all, this letter is for you. - Kyler, Chris, and the Around the Blockchain News team.
Quote of the Week:
"The law is the public conscience." - Thomas Hobbes
The articles and opinions in this newsletter are not legal or financial advice. For legal and financial guidance, please consult a qualified attorney or financial advisor.
Thanks for reading Around the Blockchain! Subscribe for free below.