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Property law and the blockchain

Property law and the blockchain

with Berkman Fellow, Patrick Murck

Tuesday, October 20, 2015, at 12:00 pm
Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University

Harvard Law School Campus, Wasserstein Hall, Milstein East C

What kind of assets are created in blockchain markets and how should the law treat them? As the first successful blockchain asset, a bitcoin has variously been considered a commodity, currency and personal property by regulatory agencies, courts and policymakers. This flexible interpretation has created confusion over jurisdictional boundaries and the application of commercial law concepts. Compounding this confusion is the reliance on insufficient analogies used to describe aspects of these systems like "wallets", "coins," and "miners".  These abstractions gloss over important nuances in how the bitcoin system actually works, and creates a hazard for regulators, policymakers and academics who use these analogies to shape law and policy decisions.

Over the course of this year, we will explore three primary areas where foundational legal research and explanation is most needed:

*Property Rights in Blockchain Assets

* Clearing and Settling Asset Transfers on the Blockchain

* Counter-party Risk From Nodes on a Blockchain Network

In this talk we will explore the first area of interest and try to unpack the basic property interests one can have in a bitcoin.

About Patrick

Patrick is a lawyer and expert on bitcoin and blockchain-based technologies. He will conduct research into the law and policy implications of bitcoin, distributed ledgers and smart contracts.


Previously Patrick was a co-founder of the Bitcoin Foundation where he served at times as General Counsel and Executive Director. Patrick has engaged regulators and policymakers in the US and Europe on bitcoin and the emerging digital economy. He was named among America’s 50 Outstanding General Counsel for 2014 by the National Law Journal.


Patrick also serves as President Board member for the BitGive Foundation, a non-profit organization focused on charitable giving and social impact using bitcoin.



Past Event
Tuesday, October 20, 2015
12:00 PM - 1:15 PM