Case Law on Bitcoin
What is a Bitcoin?
Are Bitcoins Money or Currency?
In United States v. Ulbricht, 858 F.3d 71 (2d Cir. 2017) the Court noted that:
"Bitcoins allow vendors and customers to maintain their anonymity in the same way that cash does, by transferring Bitcoins between anonymous Bitcoin accounts, which do not contain any identifying information about the user of each account. The currency is "traceable" in that the transaction history of each individual Bitcoin is logged in what is called the blockchain. The blockchain prevents a person from spending the same Bitcoin twice, allowing Bitcoin to operate similarly to a traditional form of currency. Bitcoin is also a completely decentralized currency, operating free of nation states or central banks; anyone who downloads the Bitcoin software becomes part of the Bitcoin network. The blockchain is stored on that network, and the blockchain automatically "self-updates" when a Bitcoin transaction takes place."
In United States v. Brown, 68 F. Supp. 3d 783 (M.D. Tenn. 2014), the Court held that Bitcoin is the name of an encrypted online currency.
It is managed through a private network and not through any Government, central bank or formal financial institution. (Citing United States v. Ulbricht, 2014 WL 5090039, at 1, n. 1 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 10, 2014).)
In Alexander v. BF Labs Inc. Case No. 14-2159-KHV (D. Kan. Jun. 11, 2015, the Court noted that:
A bitcoin is a unit of intangible currency that exists only on the internet, without direct ties to any single na-tion's monetary systems. Bitcoins are earned, or "mined," by solving a complex mathematical riddle, which requires a large amount of computer processing power. See ECF doc. 59 (citing Meissner v. BF Labs, Inc., No. 13-2617-RDR, 2014 WL 2558203, at 1-2 (D. Kan. June 6, 2014).
In United States v. Faiella, 39 F. Supp. 3d 544 (S.D.N.Y. 2014), Faiella claimed that Bitcoin does not qualify as money under 18 U.S.C. section 1960
The Court noted that Merriam-Webster Online defines funds as available money or an amount of some-thing that is available for use: a supply of something.
The Court held that Bitcoin clearly qualifies as money or funds under these plain meaning definitions. Bitcoin can be easily purchased in exchange for ordinary currency, acts as a denominator of value, and is used to conduct financial transactions. See, e.g., SEC v. Shavers, 2013 WL 4028182, at 2 (E.D.Tex. Aug. 6, 2013) (It is clear that Bitcoin can be used as money. It can be used to purchase goods or services.... It can also be exchanged for conventional currencies....).
The Court also held that, section 1960 was passed as an anti-money laundering statute, designed to pre-vent the movement of funds in connection with drug dealing.
Congress was concerned that drug dealers would turn increasingly to nonbank financial institutions to convert street currency into monetary instruments in order to transmit the proceeds of their drug sales.
Section 1960 was drafted to address this gaping hole in the money laundering deterrence effort..
Indeed, it is likely that Congress designed the statute to keep pace with such evolving threats, which is pre-cisely why it drafted the statute to apply to any business involved in transferring funds ... by any and all ".