This is an opinion editorial by Artem Afian, a lawyer and “legal futurist” at Hiveon, a crypto mining ecosystem that offers services for Bitcoin mining hardware.
I want to draw your attention to the fact that Bitcoin transactions ultimately occur between wallets. There are humans behind wallets, but this connection is not really what’s important. The pseudonymity of Bitcoin is thanks to the fact that there is no direct connection between the wallet and the person who owns it. It is what distinguishes a Bitcoin wallet from any other financial instrument. No matter how much regulators try to change this, the core of the technology remains the same.
What does this mean? It means that, soon, wallets will be recognized as entities deserving of legal rights.
When one talks about the rights of robots, they usually refer to some imitation of human will that is deserving of legal recognition. We understand that a robot does not have a soul in the same way that a human does, but at the same time, it performs rather complex actions, which gives rise to legal consequences. For many of us, a robot or a Bitcoin wallet is something inanimate and devoid of a soul and, perhaps, therefore undeserving of legal protections. But we recognize the rights of companies and corporations and, of course, it is difficult to imagine more soulless forms than those. It turns out that the subjects of law can be inanimate.
So, what is the difference between a Bitcoin wallet and a legal entity? A legal entity is simply a set of files in a specific registry. Lawyers even have a theory of the “fiction of a legal entity.” We will calmly confirm that the legal entity is an American corporation. We can quickly check this. But how to check that a legal entity was created, say, under the laws of the country of Swaziland? Even if I show you documents that prove it, they are unlikely to tell you anything. So, if I tell you that you are dealing with a foreign company, you most probably just have to believe it.
Nevertheless, this legal entity, displayed as it is only on paper, has some rights. So, the Bitcoin wallet that exists is even more tangible than many legally-protected entities. Therefore, one more conclusion: Since legal entities have rights, then a wallet may have rights. Just like legal entities, wallets perform transactions, and just like legal entities, wallets can change their owners. This fact never changes: if robots or legal entities are deserving of legal rights, so too are Bitcoin wallets.
I think Bitcoin is an exciting new space and that we still have a lot to explore. Now, my idea that Bitcoin wallets will inevitably receive legal rights of their own may seem crazy, but many more discoveries await us.
This is a guest post by Artem Afian. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.