The discussion about the legal status of tokens and, in particular, whether and when a token is a security or other financial instrument, is still gaining momentum. There are more and more proposals around this discussion that resolve this issue at the outset, recognising that tokens are intended to become securities. These are so-called security tokens, and the issues are sometimes called security token offerings (STOs).
At the end of September the French personal data state processing regulator, the Commission Nationale Informatique & Liberté (CNIL), published a preliminary analysis of the issue of what kind of systems suitable for blockchain might apply to personal data processing. The CNIL has also been looking at the issues that are fundamental from the point of view of the GDPR, for example who the controllers and processors are on a blockchain. The CNIL has proposed a number of specific solutions but realises that it does not have extensive knowledge of this technology. It has said that it is open to proposals from experts and says they are welcome to propose their own solutions.
The legal status of cryptocurrency is particularly important not only for the so-called crypto space, but also for the future of development of blockchain technology. Recent EU legislative proposals classifing “virtual currencies” as financial instruments might significantly reduce blockchain activity in Europe.
Anti-money laundering (AML) is the first area of Polish law where the parliament has adopted regulations directly related to cryptocurrencies and some other types of crypto-assets. We have devoted a lot of articles to this issue on the blog.
The direction of changes in the Polish law concerning AML results from the development of a global approach to this issue. Mostly this is due to the work of the Financial Action Task Force. FATF is an intergovernmental organisation authorised to create and assist in the implementation and monitoring of anti-money laundering standards, financing of terrorism and financing of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The EU and Polish legislative work on revision of the AML regulations is based on the models presented in FATF publications from 2014 and 2015.
Smart contracts eloquently capture the dilemma facing traditional legal systems, whose inefficiency has reached dimensions threatening systemic incoherence and failure to achieve the purposes the law is intended to serve. The system needs urgent reform. But the alternative of replacing the law as we know it with automation and algorithms threatens the loss of the internal profundity of the law and its openness to nuances. This dilemma will be more and more apparent in the years to come. In this context, it is essential to achieve a clear understanding of the hopes and threats integral to smart contracts.
It should come as no surprise to attentive readers of this blog that the European Union may take up the regulation of ICOs as a method of obtaining funds through the public distribution of digital tokens (or coins).
So far, we have only been confronted with market speculation on this issue, and the Commission itself has not signalled a willingness to take any legislative steps in the imminent future (see e.g. FinTech action plan published in March 2018).