Latest & Greatest – Blockchain for Business Lawyers

Edited by James A. Cox and Mark W. Rasmussen  Published by American Bar Association. Section of Science & Technology Law  KF 1030 .E4 C69 2018

Edited by James A. Cox and Mark W. Rasmussen

Published by American Bar Association. Section of Science & Technology Law

KF 1030 .E4 C69 2018

You’ve probably heard the term “blockchain” before. You also probably know that it is one of the newer and constantly evolving technologies that can change the way business is conducted. But, do you really know what it is and what it can do for you and your law practice? Co-editors James A. Cox and Mark W. Rasmussen have teamed up with a host of experts to explain and (hopefully) demystify this innovative technology in their new book, Blockchain for Business Lawyers

To do this, the authors begin with an introduction to blockchain technology, discussing its origin, its implications, and its advantages and disadvantages for business. Succeeding chapters define cryptocurrencies and initial coin offerings, describe some other financial blockchain applications, and discuss smart contracts, their ramifications and their enforceability. From a legal perspective, the authors examine securities and commodities laws and regulations, antitrust regulation and key antitrust issues, federal and state regulation of money transmitters, state laws addressing blockchain technology, and the means of resolving disputes arising from use of blockchain. No discussion of technology would ever be complete without an explanation of data security and privacy. 

So, if you want to know what all the buzz is about blockchain, be sure to have a look at Blockchain for Business Lawyers. Find it in our Legal Tech Collection.

We've Come a Long Way Abe-y!

In recent days, stories about coins and other currencies have been appearing in the news: a coin collector has all but confirmed the authenticity of the first coin ever minted in the United States; the Abraham Lincoln penny, which debuted on August 2, 1909, celebrated its anniversary; the Bitcoin split in two; and the Venezuelan bolivar was calculated to be less valuable than the currency used in World of Warcraft. With today's blog post, we're continuing the trend with a discussion of coins old and new. 

Since the release of the Abe Lincoln penny more than a century ago, simple coinage has evolved dramatically. These physical objects that we trade for goods and services still hold value as legal tender, but in some circles cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoins are becoming a more widely preferred unit of exchange. Serving as alternatives to traditional forms of money, these cryptocurrencies are intangible strings of computer code, executed on a distributed ledger or blockchain, to be transferred between virtual parties in the digital realm. According to speculators, the buying and selling of cryptocurrencies is quite lucrative, prompting the government to formally consider whether or not U.S. federal securities laws should govern their trade. In a Report of Investigation released last Friday, the SEC determined that offers and sales of digital assets by virtual organizations are indeed securities and therefore subject to the requirements of the federal securities laws. Of course, pennies and other minted metals (along with banknotes) are still the primary forms of currency in use today, and they will be for the foreseeable future, but the idea of transacting business using a secure, anonymous, decentralized alternative to traditional coins and bills has many supporters. Increasingly, the legal industry is among them, and Agrello is one of the first players at the table. 

Created by a group of Estonian lawyers, academics, and technology experts, Agrello is a pioneer in the legal tech field. (It's no surprise that Estonians are leading the charge. The small but impressive country has fully embraced digital life by building an efficient, cost-effective, entirely digital government infrastructure that warrants a closer look.) This innovative company seeks to transform the practice of law using artificial intelligence as a tool for facilitating digital agreements over the Internet. These smart contracts have the potential to radically change how business is conducted, as well as the monetary model on which it will rely. Just weeks ago, Agrello announced an initial coin offering (ICO) for its own cryptocoin called Delta, which, according to the token utility paper published on the company's blog, "will be required to employ the Agrello platform and to perform various actions in the system, such as the deployment of new agreements or the usage of blockchain and contract repository resources." The Delta token sale started on July 16th, but for the time being, "US nationals are excluded from participating in the sale." Regardless, tracking the progress of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology will be interesting, especially as these new tools are used to shape the practice of law. At least for now, however, a penny saved is still a penny earned.