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Interview with Rossana Deplano, Law Library Scholar-in-Residence

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Congress.gov New, Tip, and Top for July 2018
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You Ott to Know: Using Legal Documents to Change Baseball History
The ABA publication Insights On Law & Society states in its Winter 2017 issue that “The birth certificate is among the first legal documents an individual might acquire.” In most jurisdictions it’s the only document one can use for obtaining a drivers’ license, proving your citizenship, obtaining a passport… just merely establishing your existence. And […]

The Law Library of Congress often produces foreign, comparative, and international law reports on a wide range of issues. We recently completed two reports on the global cryptocurrency regulatory framework. While one of the reports is a compilation of brief surveys of the legal and policy landscape surrounding cryptocurrencies in 130 countries, the other one provides more detail about the laws applicable to cryptocurrencies in fourteen countries. These reports are follow-ups to our 2014 report on the same subject.

Map showing countries that impose an absolute or implicit ban on cryptocurrency trading. Created by Francisco Macias.

Although similar to the 2014 report, the new reports are significantly more comprehensive, both in the number of countries and range of issues covered. This is mainly attributable to the increase in popularity of cryptocurrencies since our 2014 report was published, prompting regulators in various jurisdictions around the world to take notice and respond.

One of the most common responses by regulators to the increase in popularity and use of cryptocurrencies are efforts to educate the general public about the pitfalls of investing in such markets. Regulators in many jurisdictions have issued notices warning citizens that cryptocurrencies, unlike actual currencies, are not issued or backed by central banks, that they are prone to high volatility, and that the institutions that facilitate cryptocurrency trades remain largely unregulated. Such warnings also often note that the anonymity of the cryptocurrency markets creates opportunities for illegal activities, including money laundering and terrorism.

Some countries have gone beyond just issuing warnings and imposed direct or indirect restrictions on trading in cryprocurrencies. Countries such as AlgeriaBolivia, Morocco, Nepal, Pakistan, and Vietnam ban any and all activities involving cryptocurrencies.  Other countries, including Bangladesh, Iran, Thailand, Lithuania, Lesotho, China, and Colombia, although they do not bar their citizens from engaging in cryptocurrency trading, seek to discourage such behavior indirectly by barring financial institutions within their borders from facilitating transactions involving cryptocurrencies.

One of the issues that the reports covered is taxation. While the question of whether jurisdictions should collect taxes from cryptocurrency transactions is not controversial, the issue of how to categorize different forms of earnings from cryptocurrency related activities for tax purposes appears to be one of the main challenges and an area where there appears to be a great deal of divergence across jurisdictions. For instance, while countries like Denmark, Argentina, and Spain categorize earnings from cryptocurrency trading as income, Bulgaria considers it a financial asset. Switzerland taxes it the same way as it does foreign currency with regard to wealth tax. This matters mainly because each categorization brings with it a different tax bracket.

If you would like to hear more about this issue, join Andrew Weber, Jenny Gesley, Laney Zhang and myself at the 2018 American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) Annual Meeting and Conference on Sunday, July 15 in Baltimore, Maryland. We will be speaking on this very subject.  Our colleagues Issam Saliba and Robert Brammer will also be presenting at the Conference. For more information on the programs that Law Library staff will be presenting at AALL 2018, see Robert’s blog post, Join the Law Library of Congress at the American Association of Law Libraries Annual Conference.


Thu, 12 Jul 2018 16:28:42 +0000
Our New Reports on Regulation of Cryptocurrency Around the World
The

Wed, 11 Jul 2018 19:28:58 +0000
Sign Up Now for the Congress.gov Webinar
This is a guest post by Ashley Granby Wolf, an intern in the Office of External Relations of the Law Library of Congress. Join us on July 26, 2018 for our live and free Congress.gov webinar hosted by the Law Library of Congress!

Tue, 10 Jul 2018 12:36:13 +0000
Interview with Ashley Granby Wolf, Intern with the Office of External Relations

Fri, 06 Jul 2018 14:05:42 +0000
Join the Law Library of Congress at the American Association of Law Libraries Annual Conference
We hope to see you at the upcoming annual American Association of Law Libraries Conference in Baltimore this July! Law Library of Congress staff will be presenting three programs at the conference. On Sunday, July 15th at 4pm, Andrew Weber, Jenny Gesley, Hanibal Goitom, and Laney Zhang will be presenting, Bitcoin: Changing Laws for an […]

It is not uncommon for people nowadays to seek out assisted reproductive technology, such as in vitro fertilization (IVF), to conceive children. The technology allows freezing the embryos created through IVF for use at a later date, when for example fertility may become an issue. Disputes over who owns the frozen embryos may arise later, typically when these people no longer want to have children together.

Four years ago, a court in China heard a dispute over the custody of four frozen embryos where the husband and wife who had created them had both died. The story of a baby born from these embryos by a surrogate mother has recently been covered by media across the world, including the New York Times and the Beijing News (the original story in Chinese). The couple pursued IVF in 2012 after receiving an infertility diagnosis, and four fertilized eggs were produced and frozen in the hospital. In March 2013, right before the embryos were to be implanted, the husband and wife were tragically killed in a car crash.

Laws of the Tang Dynasty collected by the Law Library (photo by Laney Zhang)

According to the media reports, the husband and wife were both only children. After they died, the couple’s parents were desperate to have grandchildren from the embryos to continue the family lines. The problem was: the hospital would not release the embryos to them. Thinking suing the hospital was “too risky,” one pair of grandparents sued the other for custody of the embryos, with the hospital involved in the suit as a relevant third party.

The final decision in the case was located through China Judgement Online, an online platform started in 2013 where Chinese courts at all levels are required to post their judgments. The first trial court ruled against the grandparents on the grounds that: 1. embryos are special property with the potential to develop into lives, so they cannot be inherited or transferred as ordinary property; and 2. the deceased couple in question won’t be able to bear children by themselves, and it is illegal to sell embryos in China.

On September 17, 2014, the appeals court, Wuxi Intermediate People’s Court in the Jiangsu Province, made the final decision in the grandparents’ favor. Court decisions do not formally constitute binding precedents under the Chinese legal system. Nevertheless, this case may be the first of its kind in China, which may therefore have a guiding effect on other courts in hearing future disputes over frozen embryos.

Highlights of the appeals court decision:

  • Legal status of embryos. The legal status of embryos has not been clearly determined under the current Chinese law. Rather than categorizing the embryo as a person or property, the appeals court said the embryo is “a transitional existence with the potential to develop into life, which has a higher moral status than lifeless objects and therefore should be specially respected and protected.”
  • Factors considered in this case. In this specific case, the court considered family ethics and feelings of the parents of the deceased couple, holding that giving them custody of the embryos may to some extent relieve the pain of losing their only children in their old age. In addition, they had the best and closest interest in the embryos, the appeals court held.
  • Legality of surrogacy. In 2001, the then Ministry of Health (MOH, now National Health Commission) issued a departmental rule prohibiting medical institutions and medical staff from performing any form of surrogacy procedures. Purchasing or selling embryos is also prohibited by the MOH rule. Other than this and other relevant MOH rules, the Chinese law does not expressly say that surrogacy is illegal. While instructing the grandparents to “observe the law without violating the public order or good customs” after obtaining the embryos, the court held the departmental rules of the MOH could not restrict individuals’ legitimate rights based on the private law.

Therefore, the appeals court granted the four grandparents joint custody of the frozen embryos. Since no hospitals in China may perform the surrogacy procedure, the families found a hospital and a surrogate mother in Laos through an agency, and their grandson was born on December 9, 2017 in Guangzhou, China.

Law Library holdings of the ancient Chinese law (photo by Laney Zhang)

 


Mon, 02 Jul 2018 14:00:19 +0000
A Legal Battle Over Frozen Embryos in China
It is not uncommon for people nowadays to seek out assisted reproductive technology, such as in vitro fertilization (IVF), to conceive children. The technology allows

Fri, 29 Jun 2018 11:00:12 +0000
Swedish Law – Global Legal Collection Highlights
The following is a guest post by Elin Hofverberg Foreign Law Consultant covering the Nordic countries. This blog post is part of our Global Legal Collection Highlights series intended to introduce readers to various foreign legal collections and resources. The creation of a nation is a particularly complex and difficult task. One might say that


Baseball and the Law
I love my job. Starting today, and continuing into July 2019, the Library of Congress is hosting a new exhibit, Baseball Americana. I hope you all make plans to come and see this fascinating look into baseball and our culture. The Library has lots of interesting artifacts, bolstered by items and material from the Baseball […]
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(CA) Live & Lounge! The brand-new collection just landed, and it's comfier than EVER. Check it out today at Garage!

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