I think this article is a slap in the face to what I think the position the EFF really takes.
I go to DefCon annually... EFF goes there too... they definitely know about bitcoins and take an active interest.
I believe EFF is keeping their hands off bitcoin donations so they can preserve their neutrality just in case they ever need to go to bat for Bitcoin. So to accuse the EFF of "chilling effects" for abandoning them as a donation method could be viewed as somewhat ungrateful if viewed in light of what their actual intent is very likely to be.
No, I don't think they have some specific grandiose plan of being the Bitcoin white knight - but they DO understand that it's a world-changing technology and they DO have an interest in keeping their ability to fight for it intact without being accused of a conflict of interest for accepting them as donations. It should be pretty easy to see how their credibility fighting for Bitcoin would be easily and totally undermined by an adversary who points out that Bitcoin is a source of revenue for them.
Please... please... please... don't criticize the EFF for their decision to stop accepting bitcoin donations. They are some smart folks, and they know what they are doing.
The criticism isn't specifically for them not accepting bitcoins - it's for the overly vague statements about legal issues.
I do appreciate they're essentially in favour of freedom to use new technologies without excessive legal intrusions.
If that explanation is all they intend to give, it's rather unfortunate that they ever accepted bitcoins in the first place and I suspect they may agree.
It's the about-face without adequate follow-up that concerns me. It's been 6 months.
Their explanation in June was a great big 'dunno - therefore avoid'. The apparent reasonableness of this from the perspective of various potential adopters of bitcoin is why this is so damaging, and I say - chilling.
If the business (and NGO) community is encouraged to steer a country-mile clear of where some imagined legal line may lie - you can bet that when the barely technology-grasping Senators come to decide just where to solidify that line, it'll be a whole lot easier for them to place it just in front of our feet.
I think their June article gave an excessive impression of legal risk, not specifically for the EFF, but in a more general sense.
(compare with the cited 'innovation and legal panic' article also from June)
In making such a backtrack based on nebulous legal fears, they should have foreseen a chilling effect and specifically discussed it, and ways the community and potential adopters could work together to move forward.
I'm not under the illusion that that would be an easy piece to write, but I don't believe they were particularly consultative with the bitcoin community on this.
I'm unconvinced by your argument that accepting them could raise any conflict of interest.
a) they have multiple methods to receive payments
b) It would be a simple matter to temporarily suspend a particular method if & when a specific case regarding it came up.