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Please remove mitsuhiko/* (github.com/tip4commit)
634 points by art2 on Nov 1, 2014 | hide | past | favorite | 433 comments

What is staggering is that one would assume that this service was created with the aim of helping open source developers, but when the developers ask personally to make a reasonable change to how the site is functioning, the owners decline. So the reason the site exists is something different. I don't think it's fraud. It's probably the weird culture of the (younger) part of the Bitcoin community, for whom the Bitcoin is more like cultural revolution. It's hard to rationally explain why liking Bitcoin leads to liking tip4commit's approach, but surely the Bitcoin revolutionists like to place themselves above the rest, and don't see themselves as a part of the "old" world (legal, financial system etc.).

For example, the currently highest-voted comment on /r/bitcoin for the story [0] says "I disagree with him [mitsuhiko]".

[0] http://www.reddit.com/r/Bitcoin/comments/2kz9x0/please_remov...

I think it's fair to say that the vocal majority of BitCoiners have a very naive view of some basic economic concepts.

Well, the vocal majority of EVERYONE has a very naive view of most basic economic concepts.

Fully agreed -- but I'm not trying to do very much with economics other than save money and pay taxes. For the things where I'm trying to act towards specific social change (e.g., privacy and security, in my case) I make an effort to be well-informed about, technically, socially, and legally. I don't have any illusions that the status quo is good, but there are also things that you can't be naive about when changing.

I think there are a lot of broken things about how currency works, but there are also quite a number of good things, and setting the whole thing on fire without understanding which parts are good and why is a recipe for hurting people and also failing to get your idea to succeed.



Also that they like ramming it down everyone's throats.

Given the value of BitCoin relies on desire and the only way they can possibly convince people that they want BitCoin is to spam it until they believe it...

I think it's fair to say that's a blaming statement. Comments by people who appreciate the value of the blockchain are not all naive. I'd say the vast majority of people don't quite understand the ramifications yet, and would rather talk about what we all focus on: money. That's not what I think the value of Bitcoin is, however.

>a very naive view of some basic economic concepts.

Which concepts in particular are you referring to?

For one, there's a massive disconnect in distinguishing between the value of the currency and currency as a medium of exchange. For example, most sites and discussions focus on the value of BTC vs USD. Very few look at volatility and transaction volume.

>Very few look at volatility

That is fair. Do you think this is an insurmountable disadvantage?

>and transaction volume.

I don't know about that. Bitcoiners have been very vocal about the regularly increasing transaction volume since its inception. See https://blockchain.info/charts/n-transactions-excluding-popu...

Using Bitcoin is basically, like using a foreign currency, with the only difference, that in case of a the conventional currency you might actually live in the country it is used.

In other words, whenever you use Bitcoin you take on FX risk. This means, that Bitcoin is something you wouldn't want to store value in for the long-term.

Hedging that risk will also prove a major headache, since there aren't that many Bitcoin contracts out there, and the ones that are, carry some major credit risk with them.

>This means, that Bitcoin is something you wouldn't want to store value in for the long-term.

I can think of a reason you would want to. Bitcoin is strictly supply-limited, and all fiat currencies are not. One might decide that, despite Bitcoin's volatility, the expected change in unit value over time is higher than that of any (inflationary) fiat currency.

With the difference that other fiat currencies are spectacularly unlikely to be declared illegal in your jurisdiction. There's a non-zero chance of your "bitcoin stored value" being about as desirable as a few suitcases full of cocaine, if your local laws fall that way.

I wonder if tip4commit have even considered whether any of the unsolicited donations they're collecting for are intended for residents in any of the non-green countries here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legality_of_Bitcoin_by_country ? If you're a contributor to an open source project and you live in Bangladesh, this is about as welcome as receiving illegal drugs in the post in return for your open source project commits. (Yeah, a bit of hyperbole there, but still...)


>With the difference that other fiat currencies are spectacularly unlikely to be declared illegal in your jurisdiction.

So we've gone from "it's volatile" to "it's maybe, potentially, illegal at some point in the future"?

Well, there are a few reasons I wouldn't be worried about this. A) It's not likely that Bitcoin will be banned outright in most countries. B) If it were to be banned outright, you'd likely have plenty of notice and be able to sell it before the laws took effect.

Also, it is not as if the project is actually sending Bitcoin to the developers; it is simply making it available for them to claim. A more comparable analogy would be if a sweepstakes in Colorado told me I had won some free marijuana; even though marijuana is illegal in my state, I am not legally culpable unless I actually claim the winnings.

True - like I said, I was being hyperbolic...

I still think the "potentially illegal at some point in the future" is a real consideration in the discussion about using Bitcoin "to store value in for the long-term".

As for the difference between "sending Bitcoin to developers" vs "making it available for them to claim" - think about how you'd feel if someone in Colorado was running a website saying "Donate marijuana to wyager for each of his upvoted HN comments!", then had your local police come round to your place asking you about"your" 7oz of illegal drugs? However "in the right" you are, being put in that position without being asked, and having "that guy" argue about whether he needs to stop doing it when you complain... I personally wouldn't want to be involved in those arguments, nor would I be at all happy about other people supporting :that guy"'s rights to keep doing it.

> If it were to be banned outright, you'd likely have plenty of notice and be able to sell it before the laws took effect.

Ah, but who would want to buy Bitcoin in that scenario?

People in countries where it was not going to be outlawed, or customers who planned to use it for illegal purposes anyway.

Bitcoin is strictly supply-limited, but there are an unlimited number of altcoins.

(I see Bitcoin advocates pushing people to stop using altcoins. It's unclear to me what force they can put behind this admonition.)

True, if we expect the BTC FX risk to be lower, than the inflation risk of the best possible fiat currency choice, then BTC would be the superior choice.

It's different than most other foreign currencies in the sense that it's variance in value is MUCH higher than your usual currency. I would consider storing my personal fortune in CHF, JPY, USD, or even EUR but never in BTC.

Exactly, the volatility is why people wouldn't use it as a store of value.

P. S. I like how you went "...or even EUR" ;)

Friction, lowest friction tends to win and bitcoin demands friction to run the blockchain. I don't think electronic exchange mechanisms are daft, but I do think the bitcoin model is.

>bitcoin demands friction to run the blockchain

It requires (electrical) power. I don't think this could reasonably be called "friction". When I think "friction", I think of burdens imposed on users. Bitcoin has relatively few of those.

Cost per transaction of $19 is a fair amount of friction - https://blockchain.info/charts/cost-per-transaction

>Cost per transaction of $19 is a fair amount of friction

Haha, I have no idea what that chart is talking about. It might be in cents. Even then, it seems expensive.

My phone client uses a ~$0.05 fee, I think.

All fees are optional. Your transaction might just take longer without one.

There are about 500 transactions per block; each block contains 25BTC + fees (the fees are negligible at the moment). At the current price of $350/BTC that means that the revenue per transaction is 25*350/500 = $17, which means that the cost per transaction should be around that area. This means that the low transaction fee is actually massively subsidized by the fixed block reward.

Yeah, just thinking about that fee graph. I have no idea of the transaction size it is based on and without that it is pretty useless.

The failure, nay the pigheaded refusal, to learn from history.

BitCoin is faux money and will likely be recorded as the "Dutch Tulip Bubble" [0] of our times.

Intentions and wishful thinking alone are not enough to create revolutions. Crises are invariably required to change such fundamental concepts as value of currency in the public's mind, and it has to happen on a massive scale in a tiny span of time. BitCoin will be no more than the butt of jokes in another decade unless it finds it's destiny in a crisis made for it to shine.

[0] http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tulip_mania

You haven't actually mentioned any economic principles; you've just compared Bitcoin to a historical bubble (of which there were certainly many) without any evidence supporting this comparison.

>BitCoin is faux money

Could you expand on this? How do you define "faux" money?

OK, you're making 2 different claims. The first claim is that Bitoiners refuse to learn from history. But the second claim is that crises are required for revolutionary change (history says, I presume). So how are Bitcoiners refusing to learn from history? By trying in the first place? Or by failing to manufacture a crisis?

And really, linking to the wikipedia page of tulip mania, as if we haven't heard that trope 10,000 times?

I don't think the second part of your comment is correct and the fact that this situation about tip4commit and discussions around it makes it to seam correct forces me to dislike it [tip4commit] even more. I mean, there isn't really "two armies" fighting each other: "old world" vs "bitcoin-ish world" with completely polar ideologies, there's no black and white. So when someone on one side is doing some ridiculous nonsense it doesn't make the other side automatically "the right one" and vice versa. Even not being part of Bitcoin community I personally think there's quite real need in "cultural revolution" of some sort, because what you are calling the "old world" isn't really "old" one as you surely understand yourself: it's quite significant part of the only world we are living in, and it is as full with nonsense as the "new, revolutionary" one.

I mean, there truly is quite a lot things that one can disagree with about the "old" world, maybe even somewhat forcefully, in "Gandhi's way" rather than "Kant's way". So when somebody associated with the "new" world behaves stupid he causes much more harm for the supporters of all kind of "cultural revolutions", because makes them look like a bunch of idiots no matter how different from each other their actual beliefs and reasoning may be.

I do feel some sort of kinship here with the Bitcoin attitude, but it's worth remembering that readability pulled an (arguably worse) version of this stunt in the past few years, and were called out as scumbags for it. No Bitcoin in that story.

Do you have a link to that story?

>It's hard to rationally explain why liking Bitcoin leads to liking tip4commit's approach

A currency only works if people use it. A good way to support bitcoin is to expand adoption. It seems to me that the creators of tip4commit have blinders on and only view the project through bitcoin colored glasses.

The issue as I see it is that the bitcoin movement mirrors the technology's decentralized nature. There is a general optimism and push towards adoption, but no real methods or direction towards that goal. It's a rather organic, evolving system. Things that have helped adoption have been repeated and things that cause a backlash are squashed and learned from. The latter is what I would say is happening here.

The non-sketchy version of this would only accept tips for repos that had a bitcoin address committed to a well-known location in their repo. And it would send the tips directly to that address. No possibility of scamming, and opt-in by its nature.

Is there already something like this?

That seems to go against the idea of tip4commit, the idea is that contributors (through pull requests etc) can be compensated as well automatically. Same if there's multiple contributors to a project the compensation is split between them based on the amount of commits they make.

Maybe the better solution would be to look for Bitcoin wallet addresses in commit messages. If maintainers don't like it they can scrub them on merge.

Couldn't that be fixed by having contributors creating a specifically named repo with the address in a file? Still opt in. It could be opt in for the maintainer too, following jchrisa's suggestion, meaning the maintainer could veto payments.

Except everyone knows that asking for forgiveness beats asking for permission every time.

> For example, the currently highest-voted comment on /r/bitcoin for the story [0] says "I disagree with him [mitsuhiko]".

Not true (anymore?). The top 3 comments are now:

- "I think [mitsuhiko] complaint is 120% fair..."

- "It seems like tip4commit is trying to ram a Bitcoin service down peoples throats..."

- "This has nothing to do with Bitcoin at all. It's people being jerks..."

On the other hand, the whole thread has been killed by an /r/bitcoin mod apparently for inciting anti-bitcoin sentiment. http://www.reddit.com/r/Bitcoin/comments/2kz9x0/please_remov...

I got the exact opposite of that (or I'm misunderstanding you).. The title of the story on reddit is:

> "Please remove mitsuhiko/* (This guy is complaining about tip4commit, please help educate about Bitcoin)"

and the mod writes:

> "You are not allowed to incite brigading. Please resubmit using the original source - the github link. You are part of the problem of why people hate our community"

Seems like the mod is reprimanding the submitter of the story for the "please help educate about Bitcoin" part of the submission (which is inciting brigading).

Or maybe it's just a cool hackathon project using Bitcoin and the Github APIs...

Seriously, what is the big deal with this? The developers are more than able to simply ignore the donations. Anyone who wasted time complaining in that Github thread could have clicked "mark as spam" in a fraction of the time and been done with it.

I guess the real reason was Armin's sincere indignation (quite justified in my opinion) about some random site on the web making use of his project name in some questionable way that appears like it is encouraged by the project maintainer himself. Emails are minor nuisance as you always can create one more filter to get rid of known spam. And then "shit just hit the fan", so all discussion that follows is more about making noise and threats about throwing lawyers in each other than really trying to solve anything.

>some random site on the web making use of his project name in some questionable way that appears like it is encouraged by the project maintainer himself.

Everyone who used this tipping mechanism would have at least a cursory idea of how it works, and that's all it takes to understand that project maintainers have zero involvement with it.

But then we'd have to listen to someone complain that the "mark as spam" button was being misused by a bunch of people.

there are normal people on this thread ;)

I think you were probably referring to my comment - and for what it's worth, I'm thinking you're absolutely correct about it being a cultural difference.

The Bitcoin community is made up of predominately radical libertarians; I say that with the utmost respect, as I consider myself part of that very group. The culture is very different from that of the Python community - and one of those ways is that it is often acceptable to alienate a portion of your potential userbase.

the top comment right now is http://www.reddit.com/r/Bitcoin/comments/2kz9x0/please_remov...

and that comment agrees with mitsuhiko

I do not normally rant, but tip4commit and its ilk are some of the most infuriating people in the world to deal with, since they're opting other people's projects into something that has all sorts of legal/taxation consequences and think that "we have no way to remove you once you get opted in" is an acceptable answer.

I'd push complaints further up to GitHub, since I'm sure something in the way this works violates their ToS, but ultimately that wouldn't do anything except cause them to self-host their code and keep running the "service".

How can there be taxation consequences unless you act to set up a bitcoin address and accept the offered tip? If you've done all that, I think it's clear you know what you're doing. If you don't do that, then the money (apparently?) returns to the project you committed to, from whence it came.

The only way there could be tax is if you receive the money, and that can only happen by you deliberately becoming involved.

To take some examples:

* In some countries it is illegal to opt someone into services they didn't ask for.

* In some countries it is illegal to send unsolicited emails about services.

* In some countries it is illegal to accept or solicit donations without registering first with tax authorities.

* In some countries it is illegal to suggest a financial relationship between yourself and another person/entity when no such relationship exists.

* In some countries it is illegal to pay out to people without also filing tax documents to track the payment and provide the recipient with records they legally are required to keep.

etc., etc.

Their track record when confronted by people who have issues with some/all of the above is not encouraging. They appear to me to be putting far too much faith in "we're doing BitCoin on the internet" as a magic shield against laws, and they do not appear to have ever talked to anyone who knows even the tax or service laws of even major countries in which the developers they solicit on "behalf" of live (evidenced by comments from them that they are too small to afford lawyers).

Which one of those examples were "taxation consequences" when someone didn't accept the tip?

They sound like lots of issues the tip4commit people have to fix/solve/etc, but not the opted-in repo maintainers, which was the point of the GP.

you are taking life too seriously

    > In some countries it is illegal to opt someone into services they didn't ask for.
Nope. You are not a part of service unless you accept the tip.

    > In some countries it is illegal to send unsolicited emails about services.
True that. This should probably be fixed.

    > In some countries it is illegal to accept or solicit donations without registering first with tax authorities.
Donation does not exist unless you accept that bitcoin. This is not a problem of tip4commit. It's a problem between country and it's tax resident.

    > In some countries it is illegal to suggest a financial relationship between yourself and another person/entity when no such relationship exists.
Once again. Relationship does not exist unless you've created it by accepting that tip. As for suggestion - they are only suggesting that you can create such relationship.

    > In some countries it is illegal to pay out to people without also filing tax documents to track the payment and provide the recipient with records they legally are required to keep.
PEBCATR - Problem exists between country and tax resident.

If those are really problems - you have problem with your gov and your laws, not bitcoin or tip4commit.

> If those are really problems - you have problem with your gov and your laws, not bitcoin or tip4commit.

This is a staggeringly arrogant position to take. "Go change your laws, not this bitcoin service." Really?

So, because you are philosophically opposed to certain laws, I should have my inbox filled with a tipping "service" and my name and projects listed as available to donate to, on a donation-collection site I refuse to do business with, and have no ability to opt out of it?

Protip: close the /r/bitcoin tab, close the mises.org tab, and learn to be a decent human being.

"you have problem with your gov and your laws, not bitcoin or tip4commit."

"In some countries it is illegal to send unsolicited emails about services."

No, that sounds like a damn sensible law that I do not want to see changed, thanks.

Your quotes are fucked on mobile.

In the US, if a payment is "available" to you, it must be reported as income at the time it becomes available. Failure to cash a paycheck doesn't mean you don't owe tax on it.

See IRS publication 525, page 2, "constructively received income": http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p525.pdf

There's some fuzziness and legal room here but the safe thing would be to declare it as income.

That makes absolutely no sense to me. If I get an offer from a bank that $200 is available to me if I open a checking account with them, then do I have to report it as income even if I don't open an account or perform any action to go after it?

The tip4commit payment is a tip paid because of work you did; elsewhere in IRS pub 525 and pub 531 it's clear (well, as clear as any IRS document ever is) that tips count as income.

the checking account offer isn't compensation for something you've already done. I think that makes it clearly distinguishable. But I'm not a lawyer; get competent legal advice before deciding you can pretend a tip-for-commit payment didn't happen.

The money is not available to you if you receive a contingent offer. Once you accept the offer then the money becomes available to you.

Same for tip4commit. You need to accept the their offer to give you money. Until you do, money is not available to you.

That depends. The difference here is that they are doing the bitcoin equivalent of leaving money on the table after you did unrelated work. Yea you have to reach down to the table and take it. But the IRS is saying until you do something about it, it counts as income because you effectively own it.

But again, lawyers haven't finished discussing all the legal ramifications of crypto-currencies or for that matter the internet in general.

Yes, it's true you're supposed to pay taxes for money earned in the year it was earned, not just when you happened to deposit the check. That has little to no bearing for this situation.

First, the money isn't available since it hasn't even been sent to you. Until you sign-up for the service, and provide a bitcoin address for the funds to be sent to your private key, they are not available. But more importantly, since you have no business relationship with the person giving the money, I would think the best characterization for the income is a tax-free gift (up to $14,000 per giver). But IANAL, and this isn't tax advice.

Either the service is just funneling money to software authors, or they are collecting it themselves and holding it unless and until authors want it. So if it's the latter, then they are raising money using someone else's name and reputation. Either way, that's not at all cool.

> In the US, if a payment is "available" to you, it must be reported as income at the time it becomes available. Failure to cash a paycheck doesn't mean you don't owe tax on it.

I don't believe that's correct. A check which is never cashed is not income, as the funds are never transferred there is no income, there is no income tax. The point of the IRS regulation is that tax period in which the check is received is the applicable one, rather than the tax period when it is cashed.

> How can there be taxation consequences unless ...

Tax? Perhaps not, but the OP was talking about tax and other legal consequences. These can vary wildly from country to country.

My local legislation requires applying for a permit before asking for donations. If a 3rd party would add my projects to this website, I could face criminal charges and the proof of burden would be on me.

What? You live in a country where someone can use your name in a fund-raiser without your approval or authorization and you will face criminal charges with presumption of guilt?

Some project on github is not even remotely your biggest problem here.

I would qualify as living in such a country: the USA.

Some unfortunate medical issues put me on disability, which means living off of SSDI for a while. For various reasons the social security programs in this country are run with a focus on "stopping fraud" instead of "helping people", regardless of little shrinkage and waste actually exists.

A consequence of this is that you are required to be "in need" which is usually defined as not having more than like $30 in cash to your name. This includes all possible recoverable sources modulo a few enumerated items (such as one cheap car). As part of the application process, I had to liquidate stuff like the $70 i had in a "mandatory contribution" retirement account from a short-lived tech support job I had when I was an undergrad. Of course, as this was WAY before you were supposed to withdraw that money, it came with penalties that made that ~$70 worth only about $10. That was still considered "recoverable".

I have some stuff up on github. At the moment, none of it is very interesting or worthy of any tip. I suspect that for now the IRS/H&HS hasn't even heard of this kind of income. They certainly are not currently looking at potential income sources this new and unusual. That could change in time.

Regardless of the probably-low actual risk, I would be required to liquidate this kind of tip right now if any existed. Failure to do so could cause cancel my SSDI. That loss could even be retroactive back to the date the tip was sent.

I have no idea how this would play out in practice. It might not be as problematic as I described. What I do know is that social security moves by the whim of politicians and bureaucrats, making the entire topic very hard to predict. So yes, someone using my name in a fund-raiser can not only cause "tax issues", it also caries a (probably-)small but very real risk of removing my only source of income (aka "rent", "food").

No, these rules are not sane (or useful). Yes, this is a big problem, that is much larger than github. Unfortunately, the potential risk to anybody in a situation like mine is still very real.

> What? You live in a country where someone can use your name in a fund-raiser without your approval or authorization and you will face criminal charges with presumption of guilt?

It's extremely unlikely that I could get convicted because of it, very unlikely that they'd even start the case either. But it would at least mean significant paperwork and other nuisance.

It's not like I'd get sent to Siberia but yeah, my country is full of stupid laws. And so are many other countries.

Actually I do think the intent of this law is good and it's to protect individuals from scams. But the practice should be updated to better work with crowdfunding and other Internet fundraisers.

Here's a similar example from earlier this year, the local police demanded that local Wikimedia foundation chapter explain their fundraising campaign.


The local Wikimedia chapter had no part to play in it, were not charged in the end, but had to spend time and effort explaining that it's the California-based US entity asking for the donations.

>>What? You live in a country where someone can use your name in a fund-raiser without your approval or authorization and you will face criminal charges with presumption of guilt?

The point is that, because there isn't a way to opt-out of the project, it is the responsibility of the tip4commit developers to do their due diligence and make sure they aren't putting anyone in hot waters with their project.

Not only have they not done that, they're also being indignant assholes about it.

If they changed it to opt-in, I would think the whole problem would go away.

edit: clarification

you say 'before _collecting_ donations'. just don't _collect_ if you don't want to.

I should have said: you need permit before asking for donations (corrected in GP). As I said, if my projects were listed on this site, I could face criminal charges, regardless whether any money ever changes hands.

soliciting contributions in UK. Moot point as to how someone else soliciting a contribution on your behalf without your permission is seen.

I think that people who set Web services up really need to think about what territory the service is designed to operate in and which legal system(s) they have the time and resources to examine.

we are not collecting or soliciting a contribution on someone's behalf.

"Donate bitcoins to open source projects or make commits and get tips for it."

"How does it work?

People donate bitcoins to projects. When someone's commit is accepted into the project repository, we automatically tip the author."

from here - https://tip4commit.com/


Yes you are.

Could you add a few more words to explain your interpretations of those terms in practice here?

The rest of the folks in the thread and on the Github issue are exploring what those terms mean. I'm not seeing you provide much insight or rationale into your interpretations beyond a simple "No, we are not."

I might buy that you're not soliciting contributions on someone's behalf, at least in a razor-thin distinction kind of way.

But as much as I try to contort it, I can't see how you aren't accepting a contribution on someone's behalf.

How are we failing to make clear the reasons behind the reaction to your work?

How are we failing to make clear the various suggestions for making your work actually useful instead of potentially harmful to the projects you claim to be trying to help?

In the face of my local legislation, you are. That would mean trouble for me.

People have legitimate reasons to avoid messing with BTC or others. Some people don't even want to hassle with currencies beyond their own.

Even if they oblige in accepting BTC and just convert it to their preferred currency, they'd be forced to go through the process of signing up and verifying with some sort of exchange. What if they don't want to do business with those institutions, or share their financial details to yet another third-party? Cryptocurrencies will succeed, thankfully, but some people don't want to put their toes in those legal waters yet. They will also have to spend more time administering to local laws and taxes regarding donations, which eats away the time they have for other much more fun things.

I feel like we shouldn't miss the point here: you can't impersonate me and take donations in my name without my consent, no matter the currency (or regulations or whatever) being used. Make it opt-in, not "opted in by default and no way to opt out".

We don't impersonate anybody. We just provide additional way to reward project's contributors and perhaps attract more of them. We'll make it more explicit with https://github.com/tip4commit/tip4commit/issues/136

Firstly, you need to make abundantly obvious and clear promises as to what happens to money left it accounts. There is no reason to trust your escrow, let alone your ability to manage or secure it. I honestly still can't find it spelled out clearly, and even then it'd be hard to trust.

I suggest you pull your site before this PR gets even further out of hand, then reboot. If you continue to pursue your project, partner with a couple projects that opt-in (free publicity for you both) and work to their needs. Once you have things in order, then you can think about something more automated.

Nobody is being forced to accept the money, and therefore nobody is being forced to interact with bitcoin. The money is there if they want to claim it. If not, no problem, they can just ignore it in which case it doesn't affect them.

Would the project be sustainable, or more fair, if it allowed project maintainers to whitelist currencies, and manage that integration for them? That seems more appropriate and follows the the spirit of giving that the project encourages.

Tip4commit using USD? Bitcoin is hasslefree. If you want tip4commit to use USD or gold or any other silly thing - go for it. Clone tip4commit, put all integration in place, see payment systems eating 30-40% of your donations.

OK, so yes. We agree that it is unsustainable if the effort is put forth to make your product actually convenient for the volunteers whose shoulders you sit on.

Meanwhile you insult us by simply saying "fork it." That doesn't get money donated on my behalf out of your Bitcoin wallet. I suggest y'all stop bickering and actually start helping. The burden to clean up your oversights is on no one but yourself.

We know you built the project in good faith, but it needs serious tweaks. At this point you're being a nuisance, at best, to the very creators of projects your site is deployed upon! If they were in your situation they would have fixed this, shipped it, and have written a detailed postmortem by now.

Consider this: you are in a high-tax country and have some incoming lucrative income. Instead of receiving that income and paying the tax, the company sends you an email saying: Here's a $100,000, come get if you want, but you don't have to! It's a tip! It'll get donated to MSF in a few years. Wink, wink. You put in your income for the year as $0 (not having accepted this tip), and leave for the Seyschelles, where suddenly you come upon this email (you didn't check your Spam folder until then) and claim your now tax-free $100,000.

Sure, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tax_avoidance . Various strategies to reduce income in one year or jurisdiction and apply it to another are widespread, and I'm not sure why this would be different. I am not a lawyer, though.

The "It's a tip!" nature of this seems irrelevant to taxes: either you accept it or you don't, and if you do, you may or may not be required to pay taxes on it, depending on laws that are applied to you.

in the US the key event is when the income becomes available to you, not when you collect it.

The proper thing to do in your hypothetical case (where you didn't see the message until well into the next tax year) would be to file an amended return for the previous year declaring the recently discovered income.

So if I don't want to accept the taxation consequences, the shady project gets to use my name to raise money? There is no response I can have that doesn't have some cost to me.

Set aside the legal/tax questions since it just brings out the armchair lawyers.

It is simply not cool to use a project's name to collect money from its fans without their permission. And without any promise that the money will make it to the intended recipient. And certainly without any indication of what happens to the money that doesn't make it to the recipient.

Simply put: it should be opt-in, not opt-out.

Maybe contacting their hosting provider could be an additional way to approach the problem, since, from what I can tell, the messages they send to contributors are spam.

We (Django) already threatened that a while back. They still insist they will not remove projects or stop collecting donations on behalf of non-consenting projects. All they did was manually disable some of the spam coming toward our committers.

Assuming you had the muscle, what's the worst a dev could theoretically hit them with? Could they be succesfully sued? DMCA?

It depends on the country, in Canada you can certainly report them to the CRTC as breaking the law (CASL). http://www.crtc.gc.ca/eng/casl-lcap.htm

Emailing someone in Canada now requires consent (various legal ways) or close personal relationship. It doesn't cost anything to report them https://services.crtc.gc.ca/pub/rapidsccm/Default-Defaut.asp... . But if you really wanted to pursue them, you would have to hire a lawyer, a complaint doesn't have the same weight or speed of a legal filing.

This just goes to show you has clueless the developers are with regards to international policy and law.

You do realise that there is life and even entire civilizations outside of the USA, where DMCA holds no jurisdiction and the entire idea of suing becomes much more complicated? Especially when it seems from the GitHub discussion thread the tip4commit founder lives in a place where there is no regulations regarding what is a spam and what is not. ;)

DMCA being relevant or not, my understanding is that the takedown notice goes to the website's ISP (LINODE-US in this case).

If a project name was trademarked, you might be able to get them for trading on that name, maybe?

Maybe, but if they make it clear that they're not sponsored or endorsed by the project in question, it'd probably be considered nominative fair use, at least in the US: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nominative_use

They are soliciting donations using the project name. I don't think that falls into nominative use. It'd be really weird if I could use the logo of the Salvation Army to solicit donations for my own organization even if I intended to give some of the donated money to them.

Can you trademark open source project names?

Absolutely. Mozilla, Firefox, OpenOffice, Apache, Debian, etc are all registered trademarks and can not be used by others without permission.

Hell yeah.

Drupal trademark policy http://drupal.com/trademark Apache trademark policy http://www.apache.org/foundation/marks/ Eclipse trademark policy https://www.eclipse.org/legal/logo_guidelines.php KDE® and the K Desktop Environment® logo are registered trademarks of KDE e.V. can't find the policy right now.

I think so, yes. See Iceweasel[0], the custom Debian build of Firefox. I'm not sure that you'd be successful in using trademark law in this particular scenario though.


Yes, in fact GPLv3 specifically deals with trademarks in section 7e).

Who holds the trademark for Django? That person or organisation might have standing in some jurisdictions to ask for it to be removed.


The Django Software Foundation is custodian of the registered IP of Django, including the trademark:


If you want to support Django and its community and development (which includes more than just commits to a git repository), there is also a mechanism to donate to the DSF:


Django's trademark is held by the Django Software Foundation.

Not sure how the process works, but what about getting their domain added to Spamhaus's lists? [1]

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Spamhaus_Project

This is the OSS crowd-funding/tipping equivalent of GetSatisfaction and UserVoice. Both started as service-desk/bug-tracking platforms that included the software of completely unaffiliated companies but have morphed into customer engagement platforms as SaaS.

Those projects are in the public domain. If there are purposes that you don't want your project to be used for then forbid it in the license. When you put your contact information in the public domain and then complain about being notified when somebody has given you money, I feel like you're complaining just for the sake of complaining. Set up filter rules or don't put your contact information on the internet.

If I was denied the chance to receive a donation for a contribution I made to an open source project essentially because the "project owner" doesn't agree then I'd be very annoyed.

> Those projects are in the public domain.

This is completely wrong.

> If there are purposes that you don't want your project to be used for then forbid it in the license.

This is completely inapplicable.

> If I was denied the chance to receive a donation for a contribution I made to an open source project essentially because the "project owner" doesn't agree then I'd be very annoyed.

Start your own project.

Thank you for taking the time to post this enlightening rebuttal.

They are all valid points, if you don't like it, argue against it, don't get snarky.

Edit: Yes thanks for that downvote, encouraging people to have an intelligent conversation through constructive arguments rather than making pointless remarks seems to be frowned upon by some people

The person who replied to him basically just said, "I disagree." They didn't provide any reasons for this. They were also being rude. I think his response was appropriate.

When you're factually wrong, there's not much to say other than "you're wrong and this is why." When you get saucy about being wrong...

But you didn't provide the "why" part. And he wasn't being saucy at first. He only did that after you didn't say why you disagreed.

I totally provided "why." The public domain has nothing to do with open source. Copyright doesn't apply to brand use. Dude didn't research but hopped right up on that soap box, and judging from the upvotes, I wasn't the only one to be put off by it.

You didn't say that in the reply that he responded to.

The first two are incontrovertible facts. If you don't want blunt responses, don't pretend a right to your own facts.

Shouldn't down votes be reserved for people who are being inflammatory or trolling? This guy just expressed his opinion. Just because you don't agree with him, does that mean you need to down-vote him? Doing this only encourages people to have the same viewpoint.

> then forbid it in the license

Isn't this really all there is to say on this subject?

No. It's irrelevant and wrong. The third party site raising money in these projects' names is not using code from the projects to do so, it is only using the name. They are not bound by any license offered by the projects. Maybe the projects' authors can pursue some kind of action for that alone, but it has nothing to do with the terms under which the project is licensed.

Maybe licenses could be modified to cover the case of using the name? No idea what the legalities of this situation are, but if this problem is rampant, it seems at least plausible that the right legalese could help stem the tide.

No, they can't. Licenses are based on copyright law. The copyright holder may set terms under which the content they hold a copyright on may be copied and distributed. This is what a license is all about. Copyright does not apply to names of projects, titles of books, etc. Only to the content itself.

The use of the name, by itself, is not and cannot be protected by a license. This is the domain of trademarks, which few of these projects would have, because trademarks must be registered and paid for. But that's probably not the issue here. The real issue is that the site seems to imply a business relationship with various projects and contributors that does not actually exist. Likely, this is enough to bring action if it comes to that.

Also, to address a point of confusion in this discussion: The no-promotion provisions in the BSD license and similar only applies to derivative software, which would be use under the license. The author can place restrictions on promotion of derivative works only because the licensee is actually copying and distributing the code under license and the license is the only thing that would give him the right to do so.

No, it's not. The software itself has nothing to do with taking donations on its behalf.

not a lawyer, but one quick way to gain some protection for these developers would be to treat their online archives at github as IP, use it in some minimal commerce activity and copyright the name of the product. At that point, it would be less legally defensible for tip4commit to solicit donations for them.

I'm confused to why this project is a good idea. It seems like they are collecting funds on behalf of a third party without that third parties consent and then distributing those funds, again without third parties knowledge or consent.

As much as the project seems to have good intentions, insisting that It's BitCoin, BitCoin is different doesn't mean your product is actually exempt from rules and law. Or that Bitcoin is all that different.

There is no reason someone couldn't build a similar project using traditional currency. But then they would run afoul of the many laws designed to protect depositors, investors, and the financial system writ-large. As someone remarks in TFA, holding the amount of currency on ones balance sheets this project would, if successful, is a terrible idea. It's ripe for fraud and abuse. There is a reason services like Gittip assist in transferring fund, and act as the debiter and depositor.

This whole thing is emblematic of the problems with Bitcoin culture, which seems to think it doesn't have to follow any of the rules. Sorry lads, if Bitcoin is currency, you have to behave like banks and investment firms if you are going to act like banks and investment firms.

I think that the project is a bad idea because you can't impersonate me and take donations in my name without my consent, no matter which currency is being used.

Can you explain how they have given that impression? I still don't fully understand what's going on here, but my first impression (Which seems to be the issue you have, that they are masquarading or implying that they are operating on behalf of the developer) is that they let people put bounties on bugs.

That means they are independent and third party and in no way necessarily affiliated with the project. I understood that right from the start, but I only have a 3rd person perspective on this, are the private messages different?

Could you go into more detail on your position?

The big text on the landing page says

> Contribute to Open Source

> Donate bitcoins to open source projects or make commits and get tips for it.

The language used is "donate to projects". If you click the "See projects" button, you get to a page with the header "Supported projects", which suggests some kind of agreement between the project and Tip4Commit.

If you click a project, you get to a page with text like "Project sponsors", and even "No sponsors yet. Be the first to support this project.". The implied "... on Tip4Commit" part is not obvious.

The only thing suggesting that Tip4Commit is not affiliated with the projects is a low-contrast message at the bottom of each page, which was added after this blew up.

Can you point to where they believe they are immune to the rules because they're using Bitcoin?

To me it just looks like a badly implemented concept that happens to use Bitcoin. I'm not seeing any Bitcoin exceptionalism here.

The Bitcoin exceptionalism is clear in this bit:


arsenische - Do I need to learn all the laws of all the countries before publishing anything online or may I just use the common sense and conscience please?

mitsuhiko - To be honest: when it comes to handling money I would assume so. If this website would be dealing with a real world currency you would have a bunch of problems on yourself at this point. Most people would avoid holding funds on their books for an unlimited amount of time.

Don't build software you have to opt-out of and you have a lot less problems on your hand. Right now, this is dangerously close to being sued by someone.

arsenische - That's why this kind of project is hardly possible with traditional money. This project was created during a 48 hour rails rumble competition. The beauty of Bitcoin is that everybody can use it to create something during a weekend.

This is not a commercial project, we don't have resources to hire lawyers and accountants.


From this it seems that not only do they think it avoids legal issues, but they do not consider publicly raising bitcoin to be a commercial project that needs lawyers or accountants.

Hmm. I can partially agree with that take on what they're saying.

Though it seems more like they're saying "We have no resources but were able to this because it uses Bitcoin" than "We're immune to laws because we're using Bitcoin".

Although this situation points out that there is a fundamental conflict with Bitcoin and the established systems that's going to require an adjustment period.

While it's certainly true that laws governing money, accounting, finance, etc. can, will, and do apply to Bitcoin, the fact still remains that it's really easy to move money around electronically outside of institutional controls. Previously, the laws controlling electronic transfer have been enforced via the institutions, and that's no longer entirely possible.

Some things will have to change, it will be interesting to see how it shakes out.

There's no fundamental conflict. Due to the existence of hard cash, I can set up a stall on the street selling stuff. However the tax and licensing folk might still want to talk to me, so just because I have only spent a weekend making a market barrow with a nice tarp, doesn't mean I shouldn't check out the legal ramifications before heading into town with my wares.

edit - Also, if they are actually someone else's wares and you haven't yet asked anyone for their permission, buy several lawyers and some duct tape and apply them as full-body protective padding.

You're responding to something other than what I'm talking about.

Of course the laws still apply, but the enforcement mechanisms (which have thus far been administered via institutions) can now be circumvented to a certain extent.

It is a fundamental conflict and adjustment will be required.

I was trying to address directly that point. Pre-bitcoin, you could avoid the enforcement mechanisms with hard cash and a barrow. There was a long running British sitcom called "Only Fools and Horses" that dealt with this quite thoroughly.

edit - If fleshed out a bit, the premise behind this project might actually make quite a good 21st century sequel episode. Del Boy would love bitcoin.

Except you know it would be a complete balls up, of course. Rodney would be all excited about the idea of Bitcoin, convince Del Boy on it, and then they'd start up their own TITcoin (Trotter's Independent Traders, of course) which would totally fall on its arse ;-)

Well, despite containing fictional characters, I think this may be a more convincing explanation of what occurred behind the scenes at MtGox than any that has so far been publicly announced.

Sounds like they have a variety of the BS "Freemen on the land" concept ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freemen_on_the_land ).

The first point has nothing to do with bitcoin. Any internet entrepreneur has to consider that question at some point and the answer is mostly: no, I do not need to learn all the laws of all the countries before starting a business online.

I sell a service online. I know that I do not need to transfer VAT to the US government when selling to American citizens. I know I need to transfer VAT to my EU government for any sale to a citizen of an EU country. So far so good. Do you honestly think I know what to do when a Kenyan or Vietnamese citizen makes a purchase? Do you think most small US-based companies transfer VAT to the EU? Do you think anyone bars citizens from countries they don't want to deal with from purchasing their services?

The internet is still the wild west for many things, because governments of the world still haven't caught up with internet commerce. Nobody, except for the larges companies, can reasonably be expected to be able to deal with the laws of a few hundred countries.

Hm, how old are these people? Because from what I understand, they don't have a clue about what they are actually doing or how businesses.

From the FAQ:

    > What happens to unclaimed tips (if recipient doesn't sign in and specify his/her bitcoin address)?
    Funds that are not claimed during 30 days get returned back to the project.
Presumably "the project" in the answer refers to tip4commit? If so, isn't tip4commit committing fraud by advertising that tips go to the intended recipient, when in fact, if the recipient does not participate, they go into tip4commit's coffers?

(Or is "the project" a mistake and should read "the donor"?)

I assumed "the project" meant that the tip goes back into a general pool still dedicated to the particular project the tip was originally designated for. Then these funds would be available for redistribution when new commits are made to the project.

I can see how "the project" could also be interpreted as tip4commit though and if that's the case, that's pretty lousy.

> I assumed "the project" meant that the tip goes back into a general pool still dedicated to the particular project the tip was originally designated for.

This interpretation is correct

If by now you don't understand that this project is a bad idea, you are going to get a reputation of being not intelligent. That's not a good reputation for a coder.

Why is it a bad idea?

Maybe people have already stated the reasons. And you (wrongly) think you have effectively refuted them. You are being, to choose a mild word, dense.

Sometimes it's best to just look at how mad you are making people, and draw your conclusions from that.

You are making something people don't want.

wohhhh, that's pretty hostile don't you think?

I've being reading through this whole debacal myself, and I haven't seen any good reasons so far.

I think tip4commit is a pretty hostile project itself. It deserves a hostile reprimand. And since the creator refuses to even opt-out (let alone opt-in) projects, I really can't feel sorry for them.

This is very similar to Readability's revenue model and you can see how that turned out. http://blog.readability.com/2012/06/announcement/

When I said "returned to the project's balance" - I meant "returned to the funded project's balance" so that other contributors to that project could receive them.

Sorry if sounds ambiguous, English is not my native language.

E. g. if you donate to reward contributors of https://tip4commit.com/github/bitcoin/bitcoin and some contributor doesn't specify bitcoin address to claim tips within 30 days then his or her tips will be returned back to bitcoin/bitcoin's balance (see this logic at https://github.com/tip4commit/tip4commit/blob/master/app/mod...)

I've been thinking of something similar.

I'd get a few different signs from random organisations like doctor's without borders, red cross and some other popular ones and then I'll setup on the town square. Big ass signs and maybe a little pamphlet with the details. I'll let everyone know what a fantastic contribution to world peace I'm doing and that I will hand over all their donations as soon as the organisation they donated to gets in touch with me.

I'll just send the organisations a mail informing them that they now have a business relationship with me that I refuse to let them opt-out of. They probably won't mind...

Stop being stupid. Clear your database and implement opt-in.

However every project's balance is stored in your coffers, correct ? And you use an exponential decay function to distribute tips (1% of the balance per commit), which means that some fraction of the donated amount will always remain in your possession, correct ? And statistically, a majority of projects will slow down or stop development altogether eventually, and in this case you will keep the bitcoins indefinitely, correct ?

Could you provide an estimate of the amount of tips actually sent to people with regards to the amount donated ? Could you also provide an estimate of how much funds are being withheld because the tips amount is below the withdrawal threshold ?

And what happens when a project's owner will never claim tips? Like if he declared he is not interested in using your site, but people will pay tips because they see the project's name?

It's been a long time since I was a law student. However, as I recall the rules of trusts in common law countries (assuming this thing is covered by those rules):

1. If you take a donation from A on behalf of B, you are now a trustee. That means you're bound by fiduciary duty, which is a very strict standard of behaviour[1].

2. If you can't find B, or if B refuses to accept the donation, you must return it to A. It cannot be repurposed for other beneficiaries.

3. If you repurpose the funds for yourself, you have breached fiduciary duty and are legally in deep, deep shit.

The exceptions are, of course, if you explicitly formed a trust with explicit terms allowing you to select other beneficiaries.

Of course, the laws vary according to jurisdiction. Trusts caselaw has evolved slightly differently in different common law countries. And legislatures are typically suspicious of trusts because they get used a lot to reduce tax burdens, so there tends to be a lot of local tinkering with the trusts laws.

I am not a lawyer, this is not legal advice.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fiduciary

It seems to mean go back from the committer to the project that is funded, not tip4commit's coffers.

yes, that's right, thanks!

They mean the overall project the individual contributor was contributing to I believe. But, what happens if the overall project isn't participating? Does tip4commit keep it?

I also wonder if tip4commit has looked into whether there is a legal requirement for them to escheat the funds to the state to hold for the individual if the individual doesn't claim it.

I doubt it's a mistake. If you ask me, it's more likely that this is the whole goal of "the project."

> If you ask me, it's more likely that this is the whole goal of "the project."

No, it is not. We just came with this idea for rails rumble competition, it was pretty spontaneous.

Sorry if "to the project" sounds ambiguous, I meant "to the funded project" (not to tip4commit unless we are talking about tips to https://tip4commit.com/github/tip4commit/tip4commit contributors).

Please send donations for the Django project directly to me. Once the donations accumulate to more than $3000, I will email the Django developers, requesting that they come get the donations.

<whisper>And if the Django project doesn't come get the donations within 30 days, we don't tell you what happens to the donations. What happens to the money, if its not claimed, may (or may not) go against the wishes of yourself or the Django developers (that we're collecting money on behalf of, without permission). Also, sending these donations exposes the developers to serious legal consequences.</whisper>

The tip4commit website is vulnerable to Heartbleed:


Don't sign in or register or you may have more to worry about than undesired tax liabilities.

EDIT: It's fixed now.

I'm sure he sent them a notification about their new account on his website on which, if they create an account, they may or may not find information of value to them.

Thank you very much! I am quite surprised because I remember fixing this issue in the same day patch became available and I run update recently. Upgrading the distro, hopefully it fixes the problem.

Upgrading the distro is likely insufficient, as your private key has potentially (likely, at this point) been compromised. At a minimum you need a new key and cert.

A few things I found about tip4commit by searching through reddit:

- 4 months ago Bitcoin Core was happy to raise 1.8BTC in two days using tip4commit [0], but today's comment [1] signals they are not happy with tip4commit, because it encourages submitting large number of small commits

- an IT World article about 40% donations being unclaimed [2] (1.384BTC)

- "we discovered a security breach" [3]

- OpenBazaar, a fork of Dark Market, a market for drugs, encourages to make donations using tip4commit [4]

- "Tip4Coin donations look like they are stolen" [5]

Unfortunately it looks like a typical Bitcoin project - naivety of the authors, in terms of technical and legal matters, plus douchebag attitude (ignoring others, even if they are owners of things they profit from), plus shady entities benefiting from them.

[0] http://www.reddit.com/r/Bitcoin/comments/2993ja/good_news_ev...

[1] http://www.reddit.com/r/Bitcoin/comments/2kzlsh/tip4commit_s...

[2] http://www.itworld.com/article/2693360/cloud-computing/linus...

[3] http://imgur.com/Qd6EPZ7

[4] http://www.reddit.com/r/DarkNetMarkets/comments/27bdlo/its_c...

[5] http://www.reddit.com/r/Bitcoin/comments/20bvau/tip4coin_don...

There's also the small matter of their fee [0][1], which I do not see mentioned anywhere on their landing page.

[0] http://www.reddit.com/r/Bitcoin/comments/2kzlsh/tip4commit_s...

[1] https://tip4commit.com/projects/914/deposits

First, I want to apologize. We have received a lot of negative feedback suddenly and I can assure you that we take it seriously.

I temporary disabled ALL the email notifications (even though I don't think they were a real problem) and added a warning that we are not affiliated with project owners. When my teammate is online he will probably also some of the other issues.

I see a lot of misinformation about tip4commit and our intentions. I can't quickly respond to everybody, but I'll try to keep basic answers here: https://github.com/tip4commit/tip4commit/wiki/FAQ

Perhaps some people just misunderstand the project and hate it.

Also I think that it is normal that developers try to understand the motivation of users and ask questions in order to find a better solution, please don't take it as offence or reluctance to change.

We are going to resolve every issue or close the project.

Btw, if you think this project shouldn't exist - welcome to https://github.com/tip4commit/tip4commit/issues/157 - that could be the easiest solution for all of us.

If you believe the project can be improved - welcome to leave your feedback on the desired improvements, such as https://github.com/tip4commit/tip4commit/issues/152 and https://github.com/tip4commit/tip4commit/issues/154

or others.

Thanks for reading this and please accept apologies if we offended you (never wanted to).

Please don't take this the wrong way, but tip4commit is a poisonous project that does more harm than good. You should shut the whole thing down.

Providing monetary incentives gamifies the development process, which is not a good thing. It has been shown that providing monetary incentives below a threshold decreases both the quality and quantity of contributions. For more information about this I suggest reading Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink.

Tip4commit was started for the bitcoin project. I'm a bitcoin developer. We don't like tip4commit. What results in practice is that we end up with ill-formed, poorly thought out, excessively large, trivial, time wasting pull requests to review, which takes time away from beneficial development.

Your service is not helping open source software. It is hurting it. You are paying people to provide distractions which slow down development. Please stop.

>> Btw, if you think this project shouldn't exist - welcome to https://github.com/tip4commit/tip4commit/issues/157 - that could be the easiest solution for all of us.

The project should be opt-in or shouldn't exist at all.

I think that implementing "opt-in" is the natural solution and yet the maintainer writes that it will "brake everything". I don't understand this extreme reluctance of Tip4Commit to acknowledge the right of owners of projects to control things tightly related to the projects they own.

For what it's worth, I don't believe maintainers have a moral or legal right to control what happens between third parties - that is, contributors to their project and those who wish to support them.

I wouldn't be opposed to implementing opt-out at a project level... but it's not my project.

As I told you on reddit, I'm going through hell trying to opt-out as an individual. I know for a fact that they harvested and have been using information about me from GitHub without my permission and in violation of GitHub's terms of service. Since your comments consistently resort to legalism, how do you resolve that conundrum? I'm honestly trying very hard to not just go with the nuclear option of starting to seek enforcement of service-provider terms to shut down tip4commit, but they aren't exactly leaving tons of other options.

If they're violating Github's T&C, that seems like a good place to start. You've obviously given them plenty of notice of your discontent - they've had ample opportunity to work with you to resolve it.

I guess they still have a moral right to ask their contributors to be up front about the incentives involved in their contributions (they can't demand disclosure, but they could still refuse contributions where they don't feel they have enough understanding of the incentives involved).

The point being, setting the thing up behind their back brings a lot of risk of poisoning the relationship between the contributor and the project.

Maybe it's stupid for a project to act like that, but once it turns into a hair splitting exercise, you might as well split all of them.

Devil's advocate: If you wish to tightly control everything related to your project then perhaps use a private CVS rather than a public repo on Github. By using Github's free and very social oriented service you are implicitly giving up some control over the project.

Opt-in would kill the project. But I think they could do opt-out if they were a LOT more sensitive to their constituents.

If opt-in would kill your project, it's probably a bad project. Much in the same way that if your business can't survive without exploiting people, it's a bad business.

Opt-in doesn't mean they couldn't inform projects when someone actually wants to donate. First donation just needs to be framed as an invitation to use tip4commit with no being a valid (and default) option.

Why would being opt-in kill the project?

Because instead of having a million projects, you'd have 3. The power of defaults and opt-out is pretty well-understood to the point I'd call it non-controversial.

So what? That is a typical use case for an opt-in platform with possible good outcomes. If you do it opt-out, it's unsolicited, unwelcomed and just badly setup. This discussion and the one on Github itself is a perfect example why.

You can't blame someone else for not having a responsible (e.g. opt-in) growth engine...

They would have projects from people who are interested in their services, and interested in having them accept money on the projects behalf. If that number is 3, so be it.

Which is why you have to be way more aggressive in just about any endeavor.

The point of your service as it stands right now is that people give you money in exchange for a promise to make it reach other people, who have no idea that you are collecting it on their behalf. If you can not reach them, this money remains with you (as the "donation pool" is under your control). You are very likely to run into legal trouble beause of this, sooner rather than later, so IMHO it is in your best interest to stop the service in its current form.

You have to work with the community rather than against it. If there are maintainers out there that really want this, collaborate with them and grow from there.

The objection is you're committing fraud. You're soliciting 'donations' for a third party (everyone committing to a project) without their consent. Unbeknownst to the donaters you're then keeping these 'donations' because the third-party has no interest in taking them. This is pretty shaky ground to be on, and it only takes one person to decide to take legal action against you.

They should simply state and then execute that refused donations will be sent to other projects or returned. I don't think this is that big of a problem.

They don't do that, they just lie.


    Project maintainers have decided not to notify new 
    contributors about tips and they probably don't like
    this way of funding.
Then they return the tip to the 'project' pool which is themselves for unclaimed or unwanted funds:

    Funds that are not claimed during 30 days get returned 
    back to the donation pool of the project
The donor is deliberately deceived about whether the person or project will ever get the money.

You could have avoided the entire controversy by taking the entirely reasonable step of honoring the initial request to be opted out.

I think sticking with opt-out is ok since it will be the difference in having a million projects or 3 projects. But, it means you have to be more considerate of the project owners requests. Thinking that the emails "weren't that bad" is more evidence that you aren't listening very well.

> "I think sticking with opt-out is ok since it will be the difference in having a million projects or 3 projects.

There is a difference between "right" and "convenient for tip4commit". Assuming that no project maintainer wants to be part of tip4commit, should they all be made to opt-out? I'd argue that it is tip4commit that have to make a case for themselves and convince stakeholders of their benefits. Avoiding marketing by choosing defaults that are convenient for you but possibly a nuisance to your stakeholders is a very arrogant and short-sighted position to take.

You might like to change the wording.

"We are not affiliated with most of the projects, their owners may be unaware of or actively against using tip4commit."

Opt-in or opt-out would allow everybody using your service to win which is much nicer and more sustainable than lying to donors and developers.

I don't know if this happens often but I would like to take a moment and point out that after hearing a strong negative reaponse, It's nice to see that the developer is willing to work through the problems with the community to change his/her project to a better state.

Yup, points and kudos to them for engaging with users/critics.

OTOH, still negative infinite points for even arguing when a maintainer comes in and asks to opt out.

Fun fact: mitsuhiko also asked a fork of Tip4Commit to remove his projects. Now their page states [1]:

> This project has been disabled. It doesn't accept donation and it will not distribute tips.

> Reason: Project author request: https://github.com/sigmike/peer4commit/issues/110

On the other hand, Tip4Comment has only this notice [2]:

> Project maintainers have decided not to notify new contributors about tips and they probably don't like this way of funding.

[1]: http://prime4commit.com/projects/129

[2]: https://tip4commit.com/github/mitsuhiko/flask

These "funding" schemes keep popping up in different contexts. Journalism attracted a bunch of these schemes 5 to 10 years ago. Consider what Mike Krahulik said about Kachingle:

"you can't just start collecting money for me without some kind of deal."


Kachingle was an extreme case, gathering "donations" for sites like Wikipedia, Google News, and also small sites like Mike Krahulik's. Using this approach on Github is just a new variation on an old scam. As someone else said in that same thread:

"that is the weirdest creepiest business model ever."

who says there is a business model behind this?

Ahh yes, the classic Bitcoiner approach of attempting to drive adoption simply by giving the damn things to people whether they want them or not.

How awful!


Kittens are nice, but I don't think they should be automatically posted to everyone.

Not all of the time, anyway.

Like a drug dealer !

More like a fraud artist.

It's the Bitcoin Crusades!

I really don't understand the hate and anger that seems to be being directed at the developer, in particular the constant stream of assertions that the project is a scam, fraudulent, and created with the intent of cashing out with everyone's donations after pretending to be 'hacked'. It seems like this sort of accusation is more likely to be a cause for legal action _by_ @arsenische rather than the flimsy pretexts for legal action _against_ them. The developer seems to have created this during a hackathon as a fun little project demonstrating what can be achieved using the GitHub APIs and Bitcoin; I'm quite impressed at the end result, to be honest. I don't have any real need for the service, since my employer pays for me to work on open source projects anyway, but if I was wanting to raise beer money from a side-project I don't see any reason not to consider it. As for the opt-in mechanism, it looks like they have resolved most of the issues, and many of the complainants have never interacted with the project until reading about it here - the number of complaints about SPAM and assertions of illegality are amazing, all from people who have never received an email from tip4commit. These days it seems laughable to complain about unsolicited email - perhaps it was a problem in the days of USENET when messages cost real money to deliver over expensive leased lines and dial-up connections, but today with filtering and cheap bandwidth it makes no sense...

The outright refusal to de-list projects makes this seem very suspicious.

It makes it seem like they want to capitalize on well-known oss projects, and more or less trick people into giving money, when there's no clear entity behind the service and no clear rules about what happens with "unclaimed" money.

The two obvious explanations here are "scam" and "thoughtless developers". In either case, I wouldn't want any project I was associated with, listed on their page.

Could somebody please provide some context?

tip4commit is one of a number of services which, without asking for permission or notifying you, opt your projects into a BitCoin-based crowdfunding system. Even if your project doesn't want it, even if your project has its own donation/support system you'd like to send people to.

Historically they spammed committers of force-opted-in repositories with an email on every commit to tell them what their new BTC donation balance was after the commit. And they insist that once a repository has been added to their system, they do not have the ability to remove it.

This has legal and tax consequences they seem to be blissfully unaware of, and the best they'll offer is to stop sending you an email every time you make a commit.

We (meaning the Django project) went a few rounds with them a while back and ultimately had to resort to threatening spam complaints against their ISP just to get the damn emails turned off. We still have been unable to get removed from the list of projects they "helpfully" collect donations for:


The link in this thread is another major developer also attempting to get his repositories removed from their "service", and being stonewalled just as we were.

> This has legal and tax consequences they seem to be blissfully unaware of

To make matters worse, they have no idea about or no will to learn about foreign laws.

If they listed any of my projects on their website, I, personally would be considered to be participating in illegal activities in my home country. Regardless of whether I would have ever received any money, asking for donations requires a permit ahead of time here. The police could come knocking on my door demanding for an explanation (they'd probably send a letter, though).

It would be extremely unlikely that I would ever get convicted, but I'd have to spend a lot of effort proving my innocence in something I played no part in.

Besides, looking at this project and the number of similar projects (all using cryptocurrencies), it seems like there are no noble intentions behind this. A lot of the funds donated might never get claimed, which means that the intermediate party could usurp the money because no transparency is involved.

playing devil's advocate: may be tip4commit is not your problem, but rather your country's laws are if these allow to so easily mock anyone and risk of being convicted?

My country has several stupid laws but there's very little I can do to change them (apart from voting).

That doesn't make it OK for someone to run a dodgy "donations/tip/contribution" service, asking for money on my behalf. This could potentially cause problems for lots of people around the world (seems like UK has similar laws too).

Stupid foreign laws don't go away by ignoring them. Running an international service requires you to understand the legislations you operate in.

What if upvoting your comments was also made illegal in your country? Should we somehow guess that and stop?

Your stupid analogy aside, you can't expect to avoid consequences because you were operating without a knowledge of the law. Stand in front of a judge and ask him if you should have guessed that X was illegal and see how far that gets you.

"you can't expect to avoid consequences because you were operating without a knowledge of the law"

Are you serious? I can't expect to avoid consequences for the crazy laws that get passed in other countries?

I won't stand in front of any judges of your backwards country, I have enough with my own.

Transactions are subject to the laws governing all parties, your convenience is not the issue.

exDM69 has opted into usage of HN voluntarily.

People cannot opt out of the tip4commit service, it automatically opts you in.

Are we really discussing whether someone should be held accountable for the actions of others?

Like, I create an account for you without your knowledge and I send you to jail? Sounds like a useful app, but scary in the wrong hands.

Alright, lets remove tip4commit server from picture. So to put you in jail I just need to find any project you work on, find your name and ask for donations on your behalf? Doesn't this sounds wrong to you?

also, people who downvoting here - make sure to read HN rules about what downvotes are for. They are not to downvote different ideas, but to remove useless posts.

If you set up something to collect donations for exDM69 they might have to explain to the police what was going on.

That takes time, and costs money.

exDM69 can avoid spending that time and money by asking you to stop collecting money for them.

And so now you have a choice: offer to give timy amounts of money to someone who will never accept it; or you could respect that person's wishes by not accepting donations for them. (And that's the honest thing to do for the people giving you the money! If Bob tells you he's never going to accept the money it's dishonest to keep accepting donations for Bob).

> So to put you in jail I just need to find any project you work on, find your name and ask for donations on your behalf?

No, you would not be able to put me in jail. At worst, the penalty would be a fine. But that would not happen in practice.

What would happen is that I receive a letter from the local authorities, demanding me to explain why there are donations being asked for under my name. Responding might need me to get legal advice and perhaps contacting the hosting behind the service to find out who is asking for donations and why.

In other words, that would mean a lengthy paperwork process and perhaps some fees for legal advice. That would be a nuisance.

In other words, it is possible to make life miserable, not jailed. And the only way to be protected against it is to not be know. Security by obscurity. This sounds like an incorrect approach, especially from member of "hacker" community.

> also, people who downvoting here - make sure to read HN rules about what downvotes are for. They are not to downvote different ideas, but to remove useless posts.

Can you show me where it says that in the rules or guidelines or FAQ?

> rather your country's laws are if these allow to so easily mock anyone and risk of being convicted?

Does it really matter, it is a problem for the project owners. This third party claim to have an altruistic purpose yet they end up being a problem. And now you are suggesting to sovle the problem it is somehow more rational for the project owner to either 1) pack up and move to another countr or 2) start lobbying their local legislature to change laws to accomodate whatever this third party (tip4commit) thinks is a more rational approach.

I wonder if you could threaten them with a cease & desist over a trademark violation? (Is there an argument to be made that they are illegally using your trademark to market their service by association?)

Would be interested to hear from someone with a legal background about this.

Like I said, it's something I've investigated.

Best I can tell as a non-attorney acting on advice from others, the way in which they advertise their services could be easily confused as implying a financial relationship with organizations or individuals with whom they do not have a (consenting) financial relationship. Where to go from there is an open question.

The bigger question, as always with such things, is whether they cause enough annoyance to be worth lawyering them, and whether playing whack-a-mole -- since they're not the only "service" which does this -- would be a prudent way to spend time and money.

I'd broaden my response to go after services they rely on, starting with github.

Github TOS G10: You must not upload, post, host, or transmit unsolicited email, SMSs, or "spam" messages.


Sounds plausible. IANAL, but I know there are similar protections for somebody's likeness. As in, you're not allowed to use somebody's likeness to endorse a product without their consent. I can't see why the same wouldn't go for using somebody's trademark to endorse a product without the trademark owner's consent.

Wow, that was infuriating to read. They don't get it, they don't want to get it and they aren't listening.

Upton Sinclair said it best: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it."

Felt exactly the same way. The arrogance displayed by the tip4commit developers is rage-inducing.

This reminds me of a site (the name of which I apparently have washed from my memory, but not manta) that creates a profile for you from your public LinkedIn profile. It showed up in a google search when I was looking for a job, and contained older entries. I had to opt-in, sign up, and edit my information in order for it to be removed. The point everyone here is missing, is that this is the free-market risk of publishing things to the open web.

Deal with the issue some other way. There are unethical people out there who want to make money in crafty ways.

Even if the data is publicly accessible, collecting and processing it is not permitted in all cases. Eg. the EU laws: http://ec.europa.eu/justice/data-protection/data-collection/...

Sounds somewhat like Klout (which I hated and also had to register with in order to opt-out)

Maybe try reporting every email they send to spamcop? That should give their hosting provider a pretty good incentive to block their email sending privileges.

If minimum donation was say $5 and it notified you one time when you had $25, I do see the people who this would bother being edge cases.

The tax thing is a good point, but I think it would be entirely reasonable and ethical to simply ignore any donations you got if you didn't want them, and not declare them. Perhaps Tip4Commit could auto forward any unclaimed tips to a charity if they are not claimed in a month.

Email spam is another good point, but if it was simply reduced to a one time email when you had accumulated $25 USD I don't see it as unreasonable.

If they implemented the above I'd probably defend them. Right now not so much perhaps, micro cents of tips and lots of emails are understandably pretty annoying.

The fact that they have a site on which they solicit donations for specific projects by name, without the permission of the projects involved, raises legal concerns both for them and for the projects if someone succumbs to the reasonable confusion that projects listed on tip4commit have some sort of fundraising agreement with tip4commit.

I've considered a few times figuring out what it would cost to give them a good once-over with an attorney, just because it seems historically that existential threats to their "service" are the only way they ever give even the minimal response to complaints.

The idea behind Tip4Commit seems sound to me, it just seems like they've executed it really poorly which is a shame.

Unfortunately can't seem to access their site, but if you're right and they are intentionally creating confusion then that is obviously a bad thing.

I have no problem with crowdfunded donation services... so long as the person/project the donations are being collected for has consented to it.

I have a large problem with forcibly opting me and projects I work on into this, especially since some of those projects have donation mechanisms already, and an even bigger problem with no way to opt out once in. And I have a huge problem with the implication that I or those projects have any sort of relationship with tip4commit other than one of saying "please stop this" and getting back "no" over and over.

My money is on the old Bitcoin play of "we were hacked" once they have a large enough balance of donations.

As someone else has already pointed out, they don't even have to pretend to get hacked to get to keep contributors' money. The model of dispensing 1% of balance per commit guarantees that it's impossible to get all of a project's contributions back out again.

This is problematic in many different ways. Tax reasons are one. Noncompete agreements with exempts for non commercial / open source work another.

Having a balance on this site, even if it's zero, can have severe implications for the maintainer(s).

I don't think it can have consequences - how would you justify punishing somebody for something somebody else did?

In Finland all kickstarter style fundraisers are explicitly illegal, so is this. Basically any collection of money requires a special permit that is only handed to certain charitable causes etc. Otherwise it's paid work and has totally different rules governing it.

In this case the person would have to prove that they're not involved with tip4commit. Quite likely the prosecutor would simply say that you're cheating and are trying to circumvent the law this way. Because how improbable it is that someone would collect money for you even if you wouldn't want to?

So yeah. In some countries it might become a big problem.

I don't think it would work out this way. Looking at tip4commit would make it quite clear that you don't have to be involved. And why would you have to prove that you are not involved instead of having the prosecutor prove the opposite? No not-guilty-until-proven in Finland?

Because they have been doing it before.

Recently an exhibition called "Beer and Whiskey expo" was under threat due to it's name. Mention of Whiskey can be said to be an advertisement of strong alcohol. So they changed the name and it become just the Beer expo. After that they were informed that they will be denied permits unless individual bloggers with no connection to them would also remove mentions of Whiskey in their posts about the expo.

In the end the individual bloggers removed the mentions to allow the exhibition to continue. Short description of what happened https://thriftyfinn.wordpress.com/2014/10/11/the-grand-whisk... for those who don't speak Finnish.

So yeah. Actions of individuals whom you have no connection with can count against you here. Especially if the regulators think that you might be benefiting of them in some way, thus basically trying to cheat the system.

Remember this. Not every country follows the "innocent until proven guilty" principle.

I'm quite sure it can have consequences (just don't think it will). Some countries have declared bitcoin to be illegal (see for example https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legality_of_Bitcoin_by_country for details), so it may be enough to participate in a scheme where receiving them is typical to put someone in jeopardy.

As to punishing somebody for actions of others, that is perhaps not typical (although I think some countries actually do punish women for the actions of men, finding examples left as an excercise for the reader). However, you can cause considerable trouble for sending items (say, by international mail) which are legal in your jurisdiction to someone in whose jurisdiction they are not allowed. I'm living in a relatively modern western society, but would still prefer you did not send me cash, drugs or weapons to me with or without my knowledge.

But you did not participate unless you define participate as having your name show up in some database. For your other examples, yes, you can of course become suspect and get some trouble if somebody wants to, but still someone has to prove that you are actually responsible. I meant it in the sense of getting fined, arrested or whatnot, not in the sense of costing you time which may of course not be negligible in serious cases.

In the same way that a company can be 'punished' for not defending a brand name: silence, in the face of knowledge of actions, is taken as tacit acceptance of those actions.

When I wrote the comment I had exactly this in mind, too. But in the case of a trademark you actually agree to this - you are granted the protection but this comes with the obligation to defend it. Or the way you are allowed to drive your care but only if you keep it safe to use.

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