How Coin Center Is Helping Define The ‘Big Fuzzy Gray Area’ Of Blockchain And Cryptocurrency Law

The internet has changed all our lives over the last couple decades. From Yahoo to AOL to eBay to Amazon to Google to Facebook to YouTube to WhatsApp to Instagram to Uber to Snap, the advances and transformations to our lives are unending.
When it comes to blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies, many people compare their stage of development to the internet in the early 1990s. Admiring how the internet flourished under light-touch regulation, Jerry Brito, in 2014, launched Coin Center, an independent non-profit research and advocacy center focused on the public policy issues facing cryptocurrencies. Brito says the organization represents the technology, and so is not a trade association representing the industry. His and Coin Center’s goal is to get the same mostly hands-off regulatory attitude the U. S. had toward the internet applied to cryptocurrencies and blockchains.
‘We exist to make sure that open blockchain networks remain free and open and that users have the right to use them and that, to the extent that there will regulation, that that regulation will be rational and will be as light touch as possible,’ he says in the latest episode of my podcast Unchained (Google Play, iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn Radio), which also features Coin Center’s research director Peter Van Valkenburgh.
The wide-ranging talk gets into fascinating and thorny questions in the space. For instance: how should companies that offer ‘multisig wallets’ be regulated? In multisig wallets, two of three keys are required to complete a transaction. While such companies sort of look like financial institutions, at bottom, they don’t custody money, so Coin Center determined the regulatory status of these companies comes down to a definition of what it means to control bitcoins for someone else. (For the record, the way it shakes out is multisig wallet companies don’t control your bitcoins; they are considered a backup recovery service.)

This post was published at Forbes on OCT 18, 2016.

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