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Letter to MIT community regarding support of students behind ‘Tidbit’

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The following email was sent this evening to the MIT community by President L. Rafael Reif.

To the members of the MIT community:

I am writing to address a problem that a group of MIT students currently face but that concerns all of us, because it highlights issues central to sustaining the creative culture of MIT.

The students in question are the creators of Tidbit, a proof-of-concept code for a novel Bitcoin-harvesting strategy. After Tidbit won the “most innovative” award in a recent hackathon, the State Attorney General of New Jersey demanded that the students turn over a sweeping set of documents, code and information — a surprising and difficult turn of events for the Tidbit team.

I am grateful to all those who have written to me to express their concern about this situation, and I want to make it clear that the students who created Tidbit have the full and enthusiastic support of MIT. Chancellor Cindy Barnhart and Provost Marty Schmidt met with the students yesterday. They and General Counsel Greg Morgan also spoke with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which is providing to the students, pro bono, the independent legal representation that they need. We will remain in close coordination with the students and the EFF to offer assistance in the legal proceedings.

Beyond this specific case, I believe we should provide our student inventors and entrepreneurs with a resource for independent legal advice, singularly devoted to their interests and rights. I have asked the Provost, Chancellor and General Counsel to develop and submit to me a specific proposal for creating such a resource, which will add an essential new strength to MIT’s innovation ecosystem.

When the MIT community works together, we spot problems, analyze them and solve them. Let’s solve this one together.

Sincerely,

L. Rafael Reif

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