The startup is leveraging its executives’ legal backgrounds to help other legal practitioners understand blockchain technology – and how current laws and regulations deal with it.
When Blockchains LLC, founded by Jeffrey Berns, officially came onto the scene with its Devcon-adjacent launch party last fall, it raised some eyebrows. For one thing, Berns, CEO of the fledgling company situated outside Reno, and his brother David, president, were relative unknowns within the Ethereum ecosystem. They’re not developers, so they can’t contribute code. And they don’t have traditional business backgrounds, so they’re not the immediate choice to bring blockchains to the masses. They’re lawyers. And crypto is something of a lawless land.
(Disclosure: ETHNews is a division of Blockchains Management Inc., which is the parent company of Blockchains LLC.)
Yet the company has found at least one area where it can contribute expertise: Explaining the state of existing laws and regulations related to blockchain and cryptocurrency.
Its new treatise, “Blockchain Through A Legal Lens,” which ETHNews received an advance copy of, isn’t made for Ethereum insiders, though with over 2,200 citations – pulled from sources ranging from the Ethereum white paper to Coin Center to CoinDesk to (ahem) ETHNews – it is well-sourced. Instead, the treatise is addressed to other legal practitioners, many of whom both lack foundational knowledge in the technology and are unfamiliar with the case law surrounding it – even as the companies, organizations, and government agencies they are a part of begin exploring use cases.
While that knowledge is out there, it tends to be scattered. The treatise is an attempt to – in one document – provide “a comprehensive overview of current federal, state, and select international laws governing blockchain technology.”
The abstract of the treatise states:
“Where laws or regulations do not exist, or potentially relevant laws or regulations have not yet been applied, the treatise aims to provide thoughtful analysis of how the existing U.S. legal framework and jurisprudence may apply to the intersection of blockchain technology and a variety of practice areas, such as intellectual property, anti-money laundering, consumer protection, property, and contracts.”
Despite a dearth of laws and regulations specifically addressing blockchain tech and cryptocurrency – which, depending on the coin and the jurisdiction, could be a currency, a commodity, a security, and/or property – the document still covers a lot of ground. Almost 300 pages of it. Chapter 4, for instance, attempts to outline every proposed US House resolution that has namechecked blockchain or cryptocurrency. It then goes on to address individual state legislative efforts. Chapter 5 details the current state of international laws and regulations, with forays to Japan, Estonia, Australia and a dozen other countries and actors.
Stephanie Sciarani, deputy general counsel for Blockchains LLC and one of the treatise’s authors, compares it to a recent Swiss Federal Council report entitled “Legal Framework for Distributed Ledger Technology and Blockchain in Switzerland.” That report was specific to, obviously, Switzerland and focused on the financial sector. The Blockchains LLC treatise, by contrast, aims to be applicable across sectors and is firmly rooted in US laws and regulations.
The treatise, released today on the Blockchains LLC website, has been in the works since 2017, when Jeffrey still maintained a law practice. Though it grew out of an internal necessity to understand how legislators and regulators had treated blockchain tech developments (and how they would treat them moving forward), nearly two years later, Blockchains LLC wants others to use it as a foundational document and says it plans to update it every quarter.
Lee A. Weiss, the company’s general counsel, says, “While we intend for this treatise to be a resource for legal professionals, we believe it will also be a useful tool for those who are involved in, or currently exploring, the blockchain ecosystem. And like the ethos of this community of which we are so proud to be a part, this resource is open for everyone to access.”
It seems like something the space could use.
Jeff Benson is Managing Editor of ETHNews. He’s worked as a writer and editor everywhere from Sudan to Reno. He holds a bachelor’s in politics from Willamette University and a master’s in nationalism studies from University of Edinburgh. When he’s not in the newsroom, he trots the globe and writes about it. He holds a bit of value in ETH.
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