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Cryptocurrency and Property Issues

Identifying property presence in daily life is challenging, making the ‘property question’ crucial for legal disputes over assets like cryptocurrency. This question of lawful recognition and entitlement enforcement is vital as digital assets like Bitcoin emerge. Secured via cryptography and blockchain, cryptocurrencies, which lack intrinsic value but are valued by users, are now globally traded. With a market expanding, it’s crucial to understand and defend crypto-owners’ rights https://prifinance.com/en/cryptocurrency-license/ against others or government bodies. Jurisdictions worldwide have made initial legal responses, with scholars like Low, Teo, Zilioli, Sarel, Fox, and Green providing academic support.

Ruscoe vs Cryptopia Case

In the case of Ruscoe and Moore v Cryptopia, the core debate revolved around Cryptopia’s responsibility as a trust holder of cryptocurrency for account holders. The case hinged on determining if cryptocurrencies could be categorized as ‘property’ under New Zealand’s Companies Act 1993.

Justice Gendall affirmed this, drawing from the Ainsworth property criteria (defined, recognizable, assumable by third parties, with a degree of stability). Through analogy with recognized intangible properties, it was concluded that cryptocurrency indeed satisfied Ainsworth’s four criteria. Gendall J emphasized that cryptocurrencies are even more definable than some acknowledged properties, like copyright, citing the blockchain’s transparent and public address records. Furthermore, the existence of an active cryptocurrency market underscored that these digital assets could be assumed and respected by third parties, affirming their ‘property’ status despite risks of hacking or misuse.

Cryptocurrency Status: Justice Gendall’s Perspective on Property


Gendall emphasized cryptocurrency isn’t just information because it’s:

  • Tradable with private keys.
  • Recognized and supported for its unique transfer system.
  • Not duplicable without a private key.

He concluded that failure to recognize crypto as property could hinder commercial development, irrespective of its potential misuse, similar to traditional banking risks.

Questions and Challenges

In essence, the property question concerning cryptocurrency not only brings forth significant theoretical considerations about the essence of property but also examines how it responds to innovative assets. This question elucidates the dynamics between property and various legal doctrines, providing a degree of certainty and stability—traits intrinsic to property. However, addressing the property question isn’t without challenges. While it provides clarity to urgent commercial and financial issues and offers preliminary answers, it simultaneously opens the door to more questions, presenting challenges courts are beginning to navigate. These initial responses don’t conclusively resolve the property question in the realm of cryptocurrency.


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