July 28, 2022


Yesterday the UK’s Law Commission published its consultation paper on digital assets.

The Law Commission is calling on the Government to create a new category of property.

Regardless of your views on crypto, this is a big deal.

The new category is provisionally titled DATA OBJECTS and must display features of being “rivalrous”.

The reforms would make it easier for Courts to decide ownership claims over tokens, and to identify risks that are unique to crypto.

It would also put the UK at the forefront of establishing where crypto and decentralized finance fits into private law globally, establishing a precedent for other international legal regimes to follow.

From the Law Commission:

“Digital assets are increasingly important in modern society. They are used for an expanding variety of purposes — including as valuable things in themselves, as a means of payment, or to represent or be linked to other things or rights — and in growing volumes. Electronic signatures, cryptography, smart contracts, distributed ledgers and associated technology have broadened the ways in which digital assets can be created, accessed, used and transferred. Such technological development is set only to continue.”

The Law Commission propose the explicit recognition of a “third” category of personal property distinct from things in possession and things in action, which would allow for a more nuanced consideration of new, emergent, and idiosyncratic objects of property rights.

The proposals come in the wake of a speech by one of the country’s most senior judges, Geoffrey Vos, who said the UK had a chance to provide the international legal and regulatory foundations for using cryptoassets and distributed ledger technology, if it could be bold enough to take the first step.

“We are in a period of very significant opportunity,” Vos said.

“If English law and the UK’s jurisdictions can provide the legal backdrop of choice to DLT systems, a big economic prize will follow.”

The Consultation Paper is available here.

There is a Summary Document, available here.

Kudos to Professor Sarah Green, Matthew Kimber and team for these ground-breaking proposals.  

LawBEAM alert to follow.

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