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Bitcoin: A First Legal Analysis

With Reference to German and US-American Law

Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNSC,volume 8438)


The use of Bitcoins is increasing rapidly. Bitcoins are utilized in e-commerce to purchase both legal and illegal goods, they are transferred and traded and companies have invested their capital in the new digital currency. While the technical aspects of the system are well established, the legal framework remains unclear. Legislators all over the world are just starting to discover this new virtual phenomenon. This article illustrates selected legal challenges arising in different fields of law (public, criminal and civil law). Particular attention is paid to the German situation while the US-American context is also considered.


  • Money Laundering
  • German Banking
  • Virtual Currency
  • Digital Currency
  • Virtual Item

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  1. 1.

    The best-known example is Silkroad, where drugs and other illegal commodities where sold until the shut-down in October 2013. Successor platforms already exist.

  2. 2.

    Bitcoin mixers are tools that allow one to disguise the original source of Bitcoins.

  3. 3.

    Compare the US-supervision of bank transfers via the control of the SWIFT system: EU/US SWIFT Agreement of 1 August 2010.

  4. 4.

    Property (‘Eigentum’) in the meaning of § 903 German Civil Code (BGB) only relates to physical/tangible objects (‘Sachen’, § 90 German Civil Code).

  5. 5.

    For example:

  6. 6.

    Compare §§ 202a ff. §§ 303a ff. German Criminal Code and 18 U.S. Code § 1030.

  7. 7.

    The US federal Uniform Commercial Code (U.C.C. Article 2 § 2-106) and the United Nations Convention on the Sale of Goods (Article 1 Sect. 1) are only applicable to the sale of movable things, too.

  8. 8.

    In Germany § 14 Sect. 1 of the German Federal Bank Act classifies the Euro as legal tender. US American Law classifies United States coins and currency as legal tender in 31 USC § 5103.


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Correspondence to Paulina Pesch .

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Boehm, F., Pesch, P. (2014). Bitcoin: A First Legal Analysis. In: Böhme, R., Brenner, M., Moore, T., Smith, M. (eds) Financial Cryptography and Data Security. FC 2014. Lecture Notes in Computer Science(), vol 8438. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg.

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