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Russia: Municipal Court In St. Petersburg Rules To Unblock 40 Bitcoin-Related Websites

The Municipal Court of Russia’s second largest city, St. Petersburg, annulled a trial court’s previous decision to ban 40 Bitcoin-related websites in the Russian Federation, local news outlet RIA Novosti reported Tuesday, Feb. 27.

In July 2017, the Oktyabrsky District Court of St. Petersburg granted the application of the St. Petersburg Prosecutor’s Office and ruled to block 40 Bitcoin-related websites.

Earlier in March 2017, St. Petersburg prosecutors filed a lawsuit to ban websites such as Bestchange.ru and 24paybank.com because they were “spreading information” about digital currency that “is not backed by any real asset and does not provide information about its owners.”

As a result, the Oktyabrsky District Court decided to ban 40 websites based on the argument that:

“Cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin, are a money substitute contributing to the growth of the informal economy, and cannot be used by citizens and legal entities in the Russian Federation. The free flow of information about digital currencies implies active use of cryptocurrencies in trafficking illicit drugs, illegal weapons, forged documents, and other criminal activities.”

On Tuesday the Municipal Court of St. Petersburg reviewed the appeal filed by the Moscow-based Digital Rights Center, and annulled the decision. According to a press service representative, a different body of the court will convene to consider the case.

The same day, Feb. 27, Bill Gates caused a stir on Reddit when he claimed that cryptocurrencies are used to buy illegal drugs and have “caused deaths in a fairly direct way.”

Earlier this week, Cointelegraph reported that the creator of cryptocurrency PRISM, Yury Mayorov, was kidnapped in Moscow and robbed of 300 bitcoins, roughly $3 mln at press time, as well as $20,000 and three iPhones.

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Porsche ‘First’ To Test Blockchain Technology For Cars

Automobile manufacturer Porsche is exploring Blockchain apps in its vehicles in cooperation with the Berlin-based startup XAIN, Cointelegraph auf Deutsch reported yesterday, Feb. 27.

In their press release published Feb. 22, Porsche stated that the company is “the first automobile manufacturer to implement and successfully test Blockchain in a car.”

Possible applications for Blockchain technology range from locking and opening car doors via an app, with the possibility for temporary access authorization, to new and improved business models through encrypted data logging. Porsche also stated that Blockchain technology could be applied in further improving the safety and capabilities of driverless cars.

Financial strategist for Porsche, Oliver Döring, is convinced of the tremendous potential of Blockchain technologies:

“We can use Blockchain to transfer data more quickly and securely, giving our customers more peace of mind in the future, whether they are charging, parking, or need to give a third party, such as a parcel delivery agent, temporary access to the vehicle. We translate the innovative technology into direct benefits for the customer”, Döring states in the press release.

According to Porsche, Blockchain features could speed up the process of opening and locking the car with an app by 6 times. This is made possible when “the car becomes part of the Blockchain, making a direct offline connection possible – that is, without diversion through a server”. Current approaches still require an online connection and the alignment of the car’s data with its server-stored equivalent.

Other companies in the automotive industry are also experimenting with the application of Blockchain technology. For example, the supplier ZF, the bank UBS, and the software giant IBM are working on a so-called “Car eWallet“, which could enable secure transactions at charging stations, in multi-story car parks, and at toll stations.

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Crypto Culture Platform Coins A New Way To Stop Touts

Cultural Places, a platform specializing in connecting cultural institutions and visitors is vowing to clamp down on ticket touts through Blockchain technology.

The Austrian Company wants to tackle the inflationary effect touts have on the secondary ticket market by introducing its own cryptocurrency – the Cultural Coin. The coin, based on the Ethereum framework will allow consumers to buy tickets directly from museums, music venues and tourist sites, while providing a transparent venue for resale if they are unable to attend.

The detrimental impact of touting has prompted governments around the world to restrict the practice, as those purchasing second-hand tickets are not always guaranteed access to events.

Cultural Places is planning to stand out from other Blockchain ticketing websites by focusing on high-quality cultural content and collaborating closely with institutions worldwide. It believes that this strategy will establish credibility in the eyes of consumers who, until now, have had to visit multiple websites to plan and purchase a trip. In its white paper, the company says bringing all of the information visitors need on to one platform would eliminate the confusion low-quality, untrustworthy providers can cause – and this will “democratize access to cultural knowledge”.

A new cryptocurrency: the Cultural Coin

The company plans to introduce crypto ticketing in 2019, with all customers being offered a wallet for Cultural Coins. Fees associated with buying entry to exhibitions, galleries, gigs and landmarks would be set at 6 percent – a stark contrast to the 30 percent commission demanded by some current ticketing providers.

This 6 percent fee is going to be divided in four ways. Cultural Places would take a 3 percent share of the revenue, 1 percent would be returned to customers through a loyalty scheme, another 1 percent would go to all users in the ecosystem who hold Cultural Coins, and the remaining 1 percent earmarked as royalties for the institutions offering engaging content to the public.

Audio guides and shop memorabilia would also be on sale through the app, allowing visitors to skip queues and make the most of their time.

Building the community

Cultural Places says the number of institutions it has a business relationship with is “growing by the minute”, with 30 venues in six countries on the books at the last count. Among its partners is Indonesia’s Borobudur Temple – the world’s largest Buddhist temple, and Stephansdom, an iconic cathedral in Vienna.

The company wants to achieve a European market share of 12 percent by 2023 – and the concept could be coming to a landmark near you. Cultural Places has a wish list of attractions it would like to join its platform – including the Louvre in Paris, London’s Tate galleries, the Colosseum in Rome and Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

Each institution joining the platform would be given help to “transform their content to be ready for the demands of a new generation”. This allows users to see sights virtually before they pay a visit in person, and neatly ties into current cultural policy across Europe, where digital preservation of precious artefacts has become a priority.

The Cultural Places community will be bolstered further through a social network where institutions, cultural experts and the public can come together to debate and share knowledge. Crowdfunding will also be introduced in the third quarter of 2019, and the company hopes this will greatly improve the breadth of exhibitions and artistic endeavors in society.

One of Austria’s first ICOs

Under the leadership of CEO Patrick Tomelitsch, the focus now for Cultural Places is its initial coin offering – one of Austria’s first.

A total of 900 mln Cultural Coins are being made available to the public. The company’s pre-ICO of 90 mln coins ends on March 4, with the rest being offered across four phases from March 5 to April 5.

Disclaimer. Cointelegraph does not endorse any content or product on this page. While we aim at providing you all important information that we could obtain, readers should do their own research before taking any actions related to the company and carry full responsibility for their decisions, nor this article can be considered as an investment advice.

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SEC issues subpoenas to “scores” of ICOs in major clampdown

The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has ratcheted up intervention in the booming initial coin offering space by issuing a flurry of subpoenas to promoters and their advisers.

According to the Wall Street Journal “scores” of subpoenas have been issued in the most concerted effort to date to safeguard investors in an area lacking in regulation. The news indicates that the SEC is making good on addressing its concerns about the Wild West nature of the new fundraising approach  that has become a favourite vehicle for blockchain projects.

ICO listings and research site Tokendata estimates that $1.6 billion has already been raised in ICOs so far this year, suggesting an acceleration in the funds being raised from retail investors and increasingly mainstream venture capital firms too. Last year $6.5 billion was amassed in crowdsales.

EWN reported earlier this week that around half of 2017’s ICO projects failed, with investors losing $300 million.

In its story today, the Wall Street Journal did not provide a source at the SEC.

The SEC has become increasingly aggressive in recents weeks regarding ICOs by intervening to close those it accuses of selling securities without complying with the necessary regulations, or worse accusing some of being scams.

In the SEC’s view most ICOs pass the Howey Test used to determine whether an instrument is a security.

AriseBank, which was reported to have pulled in $600 million from investors was closed by the SEC at the end of January. In December the crowdsale of restaurant review app Munchee was halted following SEC intervention.

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Coinbase: BTC Buys And Sells Issue Resolved, Bitcoin Performance Still ‘Degraded’

Digital currency exchange and wallet service Coinbase has resolved the issue of intermittent availability for BTC buys and sells, the platform reported today, Feb. 28 at 08:24 PST.

It took the Coinbase maintenance crew almost seven hours to investigate and fix the issue where one of their processes was “causing Bitcoin buys and sells to become temporarily unavailable”.

The platform announced the system outage on its official Twitter account today at 1:53 a.m. PST:

Despite the fact the problem has been resolved, Coinbase has not tweeted an update on the fix or posted any official comments on the circumstances that resulted in the “intermittent outages of BTC buys and sells” yet. Bitcoin’s status is still marked as “degraded performance” on the platform.

Remarkably, BTC sends, or outgoing transactions, were temporarily offline in January this year, as the trading platform informed users on its status page. Coinbase also suffered “a few outages and downgraded performance” in May, 2017, due to the “unprecedented traffic and trading volume”, according to the company’s statement.

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Goldman Sachs Investment Chief: Crypto ‘Bubble’ Burst Will Affect 1% Of Global GDP

The chief investment officer (CIO) of the Investment Strategy Group at Goldman Sachs, Sharmin Mossavar-Rahmani, said in an interview with Business Insider on Feb. 27 that cryptocurrencies are in a bubble, which, when it bursts, will impact only 1 percent of global GDP.

Mossavar-Rahmani, who guides investment strategy for clients with over $10 mln in assets, said that cryptocurrencies are “the hot topic” among her clients and colleagues. She said that Goldman Sachs acknowledges the opportunities that can be brought by Blockchain technology to many fintech companies, but cryptocurrencies “in their current format” are “in a bubble.”

In the interview, Mossavar-Rahmani referenced data from a public report by Goldman Sachs’ Investment Strategy Group, comparing price trends of Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH) with equity bubbles of the past like the TOPIX in 1990, and Nasdaq in 2000.

Mossavar-Rahmani argues that TOPIX and Nasdaq look “like a flat line” compared to crypto, and even compared to the infamous Tulip bubble in the early 1600s, Bitcoin’s price is too high. Mossavar-Rahmani added that the Ethereum price is “is even more astronomical,” as the bubble on the graph far outstrips even that of Bitcoin.

Normalized Levels

Normalized Levels

When considering the impact of a cryptocurrency “bubble burst”, Mossavar-Rahmani suggested that it wouldn’t lead to a global financial crisis, as cryptocurrencies make up a smaller part of the global economy than previous bubbles.

“Cryptocurrencies are a much smaller part of the global economy, whether you compare it to US GDP or global GDP, it’s less than 1% of global GDP,” Mossavar-Rahman stated.

She admits as there has been significant investment in building exchanges, infrastructure, and hedge funds in the crypto space, when the bubble bursts some people “will get hurt… But it’s a very, very small part of global GDP.”

On Jan. 31, Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs, denied that Goldman Sachs would be opening a cryptocurrency trading desk, even though the New York bank has owned a stake in a crypto trading desk Circle since 2015.

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Fundstrat’s Tom Lee Stays Bullish On BTC Price, Sees Major Firms Joining Crypto Sphere

Co-founder and Fundstrat strategist Tom Lee has repeated his prediction that Bitcoin (BTC) will reach $20,000 by mid-year and $25,000 by the end of the year. He also expects at least three publicly traded corporations to issue their own cryptocurrencies in 2018, writes CNBC, citing Lee’s Feb. 28 Fundstrat report.

Lee’s price prediction reiterates comments he made in early January 2018, predicting Bitcoin could “easily double” this year.

Despite BTC now trading at almost 53 percent of its December, 2017 high of over $20,000 — around $10,700 at press time according to CoinMarketCap — Lee maintains his $25,000 prediction for 2018.

In his report, Lee also commented on the phenomenon of traditional corporations creating internal cryptocurrencies, stating:

“Already three major companies have announced efforts within cryptocurrencies, which demonstrate that corporations may be moving towards cryptocurrencies before Wall Street has embraced them.”

Lee sees corporations entering the crypto sphere as support for his prediction of BTC’s future upswing, citing Japanese e-commerce company Rakuten’s Feb. 27 announcement that they will be launching their own cryptocurrency as just one case of the crypto world constructively developing this year, regardless of BTC’s price drop.

In the same vein, Lee mentions Japanese message app Line’s January announcement that it will open a crypto exchange and in-app trading space.

Lee’s report also predicts that several large companies like Starbucks, Facebook, and Amazon — none of which have yet entered the crypto world in a significant way — are likely to make implement Blockchain technology this year.

Lee referenced the Starbucks’ executive chairman hinting at a possible use of Blockchain for a consumer payments app in comments Feb. 27, and also hypothesized that both Facebook and Amazon are likely to “announce a crypto-strategy this year.” He speculated that if Facebook went public, it could reward users with an Initial Coin Offering (ICO), rather than only investors with stock options.

In the past, Lee has had relatively constant, bullish predictions for the price of Bitcoin. In August 2017, he predicted that BTC would hit $6,000 before the end of the year, a mark that was surpassed by 230 percent by December when BTC hit $20,000.

According to CNBC, Tom Lee is the “only major Wall Street strategist to issue formal price targets on bitcoin.”

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Germany Won't Tax You for Buying a Cup of Coffee With Bitcoin

Germany won’t tax bitcoin users for using the cryptocurrency as a means of payment, the Ministry of Finance has said.

The guidance, published Tuesday, sets Germany apart from the U.S., where the Internal Revenue Service treats bitcoin as property for tax purposes – which means that if an American buys a cup of coffee with bitcoin, it’s technically considered a sale of property and potentially subject to capital gains tax.

Instead, Germany will regard bitcoin as the equivalent to legal tender for tax purposes when used as a means of payment, according to a new document.

The Bundesministerium der Finanzen based its guidance on a 2015 European Union Court of Justice ruling on value added taxes (VAT).

The court ruling creates a precedent for European Union nations to tax bitcoin while providing exemptions for certain types of transactions.

Notably, the new German document justified its tax decisions by regarding cryptocurrencies a legal method for payment, stating:

“Virtual currencies (cryptocurrencies, e.g., Bitcoin) become the equivalent to legal means of payment, insofar as these so-called virtual currencies of those involved in the transaction as an alternative contractual and immediate means of payment have been accepted.”

For tax purposes, this means that converting bitcoin into a fiat currency or vice versa is “a taxable miscellaneous benefit.” When a buyer of goods pays with bitcoin, an article of the EU’s VAT Directive will be applied to the price of bitcoin at the time of the transaction, as documented by the seller, according to the document.

However, as per the EU ruling, the actual act of converting a cryptocurrency to fiat or vice versa is classified as a “supply of services,” and therefore a party acting as an intermediary for the exchange will not be taxed.

Payment fees sent to digital wallet providers or other services can likewise also be taxed, according to the document.

Other aspects of the cryptocurrency ecosystem will not be taxed. Miners who receive block rewards will not be taxed, as their services are considered to be voluntary, according to the document.

Similarly, exchange operators that buy or sell bitcoin in their own name as an intermediary will receive a tax exemption, though an exchange operating as a technical marketplace will not receive any such exemption.

2018 02 27 Umsatzsteuerliche Behandlung Von Bitcoin Und Anderen Sog Virtuellen Waehrungen by CoinDesk on Scribd

Editor’s note: Statements in this article were translated from German.

German Ministry of Finance flags image via Shutterstock

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is an independent media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. Have breaking news or a story tip to send to our journalists? Contact us at news@coindesk.com.

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Genesis Trading Launches Crypto Lending Service for Investors

Genesis Global Trading Inc., a big institutional market maker for digital currencies, has started a lending business.

The new subsidiary, Genesis Global Capital, will allow investors and businesses to borrow cryptocurrencies in quantities of $100,000 or more for fixed terms ranging from two weeks to six months. Loans will be issued in bitcoin, ether, ether classic, XRP, bitcoin cash and zcash among others.

“We believe now is a great time to offer an institutional-focused lending service because it will increase general liquidity in the marketplace, encourage new financial institutions to participate in a two-sided market and increase the working capital that companies use to scale their digital currency-centric businesses,” Genesis Capital said in a press release.

The company suggests that investors could use its lending capacity to “hedge total portfolio risk or take speculative short positions,” but it also envisions other use cases for the service.

One such example, the company explained in the statement, could be remittance companies that “need to make immediate settlements to their customers, but don’t want to buy a large balance of bitcoin and hold that risk on their books.”

Genesis Capital has already attracted notable clients such as BlockTower Capital, an existing client of the parent trading company, and DV Chain, a crypto trading firm.

“The majority of trading volume in several cryptocurrencies is denominated in bitcoin, which has created a need for a bitcoin lending market,” DV Chain CEO Garrett SEE told CNBC.

Genesis’ move into crypto lending is the latest addition of institutional services in a market that has also recently seen the launch of bitcoin futures trading and increased interest in bitcoin exchange-traded funds.

Disclosure: CoinDesk is a subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which has ownership stake in Genesis. 

Exchange of money image via Shutterstock

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is an independent media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. Have breaking news or a story tip to send to our journalists? Contact us at news@coindesk.com.

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Bitcoin Segregated Witness All-Time High in Transactions: Over 30 Percent

Alistair Milne – commentator and investor, noting out data and information form digital currency wallet manufacturer Trezor highlighted out the peak high which continues to grow – leading to rock-bottom Bitcoin transaction fees.

Major variations on transaction fees were required due to the size of not-cleared transaction fees making up the mempool which had grown and dropped in dramatic movements in the previous year.

Based on data from Earn.com on Wed, per byte the recommended fee was 20 satoshis, while recently it was flying past 1k.

Earlier this month, the leading crypto-exchanging platform Coinbase commenced its phased rollout and full Segregated Witness [SegWit] support.

In the same manner following, Bitfinex initiated the scaling improvement upgrade. Hong Kong-based exchange platform which is on the 4th position by trading volume among the largest processing trading places with $1.6 bln in the last 24-hours has announced on Feb 20, that it is ready to initiate the Segregated Witness or SegWit scale upgrade for Bitcoin.

“SegWit provides not only an immediate benefit for users, but also a foundation for future Bitcoin development. By supporting SegWit addresses, Bitfinex is tackling three of the biggest crypto-enthusiast concerns: transaction fees, transaction speed, and total network capacity. We are delighted that through this implementation we can provide our customers with bitcoin withdrawal fees that are up to 20 percent lower, as well as faster-than-ever transaction speeds.”

On February 26, Bitcoin Core developers released the most upgraded version of the client 0.16.0 aiming to deliver full support for SegWit.

While not essential for so-called Layer 2 improvements to Bitcoin, SegWit lays the foundation for a raft of further network upgrades which, despite their current experimental nature, could revolutionize the end user experience. In particular, the Lightning Network (LN) continues to gain both popularity and support from notable entities including Microsoft, which in February publicly pledged research commitments.

Peter Tod – Bitcoin core developer, has recently become the critic of LN’s untested mainnet use this week, the positive energy supporting the off-chain scaling for BTC with target to step up the utility as a currency is more than ever before present.