UK Law Panel Defines Crypto Assets as Property

A panel of senior British judges and lawyers has moved to clarify the legal status of cryptocurrencies and smart contracts.

AccessTimeIconNov 18, 2019 at 3:30 p.m. UTC
Updated Dec 28, 2022 at 8:17 p.m. UTC
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A panel of senior British judges and lawyers has moved to clarify the status of cryptocurrencies in law.

The UK Jurisdiction Taskforce of the Lawtech Delivery Panel published a legal statement Monday, recognizing crypto assets as "tradable property" under English and Welsh law. The statement also defines smart contracts as "enforceable agreements" under English law.

The government-backed LTDP is an industry-led effort set up to assist the transformation of the U.K. legal sector through technology. The UK Jurisdiction Taskforce – one of six panels under its umbrella – is chaired by Sir Geoffrey Vos, chancellor of the U.K.'s high court, and also includes members such as Christopher Woolard, board member of the Financial Conduct Authority, and Sir Antony Zacaroli, justice of the high court.

Calling the statement a "watershed," Sir Vos said it addresses a number of "difficult legal topics in a very approachable and intelligible manner." The task force undertook the effort to "provide much needed market confidence and a degree of legal certainty as regards English common law in an area that is critical to the successful development and use of cryptoassets and smart contracts in the global financial services industry and beyond," he said.

The statement is expected to provide a solid foundation for the mainstream adoption of crypto assets and smart contracts in the U.K. and potentially give a boost to companies working in the crypto industry.

The task force further explained the potential importance of smart contracts in the press release, saying:

Smart contracts can be used to create more secure and more efficient ways of implementing (and automating performance of) contracts between parties. This could revolutionise agreements, from mortgages and medical research to property ownership, as smart contracts automatically execute transactions and remove the need for a middle man.

The statement was finalized after consultation with "the tech community" and the financial services sector, as well as regulators and legal experts, Sir Vos said.

Going forward, the Law Commission will consider whether any legislation may be "desirable" in the area of crypto assets, the high court chancellor said.


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