Russia’s Supreme Court recently overturned a court’s decision to ban a cryptocurrency portal that published news and information related to the industry. The outlet, Bitcoininfo.ru, is one of several dozens the country’s government banned in the past few years, but it is believed the decision may set a precedent that may determine what happens to other websites.
According to local news outlet RBC, Russia’s Supreme Court annulled a ban that had been in place since mid-2016, and ordered the Vyborgsky District Court in Saint Petersburg to review its decision. At the time the court decided the cryptocurrency-related website violated the law, as it was considered a “means of virtual payment and accumulation.”
At the time the website’s owner, Nikolai Tonkoshkurov, was reportedly not invited to participate in the hearings, nor was he informed about the decision to ban Bitocininfo.ru. Per reports, Tonkoshkurov was also unable to appeal the decision, as the time window to do so closed.
His lawyer, Sarkis Darbinyan, stated:
“The case was initiated by the local district prosecutor, and, as is usually the case in such cases, the trial was conducted without any involvement of the site administration, who learned of the judicial act only after the actual restriction of access to it, that is, at the time the judgment was enforced , when the monthly term of his appeal has expired.”
While the defense agued no legislation prohibits the dissemination of cryptocurrency-related information, the website was blocked. An initial appeal attempt that cited procedural violations was rejected “for formal reasons,” which forced the website’s admin to turn to the Supreme Court.
According to the district court “there is only one monetary unit in Russia.” The court implied cryptocurrencies were illegal in the country, arguing that:
• “Crypto-currencies, including bitcoins, are money surrogates, promote the growth of the shadow economy and can not be used by citizens and legal entities on the territory of Russia. Free distribution of information on e-currency causes the active use of the crypto currency in the trade of drugs, weapons, counterfeit documents and other criminal activities.”
An Unpredecented Case
According to Dabinyan, the Bitcoininfo.ru case sets a precedent, as so far, all similar cases had been rejected, with the court finding that the website owners’ rights weren’t being violated, despite the ban.
Darbinyan added that arbitrary decisions leading to these takedowns may in the future be considered invalid, once regulations are in place. Others, on the other hand, believe this won’t set a precedent, as “legislation provides various grounds for blocking,” RBC reports.
Cryptocurrency-related websites being blocked is a “systemic problem,” that needs to be solved as often entrepreneurs aren’t even told their platform is going to be taken down. Lawyers from the country’s Center for Digital Rights revealed they believe the Supreme Court’s decision may put an end to the debate regarding the legality of cryptocurrencies in the Russian Federation.