The British High Court has recognized Bitcoin as a legal “property” in an interim judgement on a cryptocurrency hacking case. This decision sets a legal precedent in the 800-year-old system, making it easier for victims of hacking to claim cryptocurrencies locked away in exchanges.
The verdict relates to Liam Robertson, CEO of Alphabit who was conned out of $1 million worth of Bitcoin last month. London’s Commercial Court issued an Asset Preservation Order that ordered the exchange CoinBase to temporarily freeze stolen funds—meaning that the Court, for the first time, recognized Bitcoin as legal property.
Despite the fact that British law says that Bitcoin is “data,” not property Robertson’s lawyers asserted that Bitcoin is their client’s property. Lawyers said that Robertson is the legal owner of the cryptocurrency, since the theft of bitcoins is not a transfer of ownership
Although the decision to freeze the assets is only an interim judgement, Robertson’s lawyer, Marc Jones, told Decrypt that it sets a legal precedent:
“If someone finds themselves in a similar position, they’ll be able to refer to this case and say; ‘Judge, we’re not asking you to do something that’s never been done before—see the decision in Robertson v Persons Unknown.’”
Currently, the court is awaiting the advisory opinion of the working group on jurisdiction, which should decide whether it is permissible to recognize Bitcoin as property. The result should be published sometime later this summer.