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20200509 US Courts, crypto-assets and the blindingly obvious

Nigel Morris-Cotterill

A recent spate of cases in the USA has, after the best part of a decade, concluded that crypto-assets are to be regarded as property.

Seriously: this is one of the simplest things to work out and courts - and legislatures - have been making a meal out of something that is blindingly obvious.

Yet, bizarrely, it's not only US courts that are finding this difficult.

It's not so long ago that money in a bank account wasn't considered "property" under UK law.

It was a "chose in action" and a chose in action isn't a thing therefore it can't be stolen.

That was changed and so the only obstacle to a similar position relating to crypto-assets is that governments (for most purposes) don't recognise them as "money" except for "money laundering" (which is about far more than currency) purposes.

This really should have always been a no brainer but, because of protectionist measures relating to national currencies, isn't.

So the decision here amounts to "data is property but it's not money."

That leaves open the question of how to quantify its value. In practice, that's no different to valuing a piece of art: it's worth whatever the market says it's worth and that's simple - it's the exchange rate at a particular moment that it's assessed.

See?

Simple.

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