The consequences for Bitcoin owners

Bitcoins are distributed to Bitcoin addresses, which can be imagined as a Swiss numbered account. The distribution of the Bitcoins to the addresses can be fully traced at any time using the transaction history recorded in the block chain. Bitcoin Cash has taken over this transaction history up to the time of the fork. The initial distribution of the currency units of Bitcoin Cash therefore corresponds exactly to the distribution of the Bitcoins on August 1.

Many users, however, do not hold their Bitcoin themselves, but keep deposits at a Bitcoin exchange. This takes care of the technical handling of account management. The exchange thus controls the Bitcoin addresses and thus also the handling of the new Bitcoin Cash. Many stock exchanges have announced that they will provide their users with access to the Bitcoin Cash that is attributable to their Bitcoin holdings, and some have already done so. The most prominent exception is Coinbase, which has announced by e-mail to its users that it will boycott the new currency and not distribute the Bitcoin Cash amounts. After a massive protest and a wave of migration, Coinbase has now given in and wants to support Bitcoin Cash after all.

To whom Bitcoin Cash belongs – to the investor or the stock exchange?

With the Bitcoin Cash a considerable economic value developed. In the meantime, the new units have been valued at 1/4 of the Bitcoin value. At the time of this writing they are at 8% of the Bitcoin value. This corresponds to a market capitalization of more than three billion dollars. The question is therefore: Who owns Bitcoin Cash – the Bitcoin investor or his stock exchange?

Technically this means that with the new blockchain an identical Bitcoin Cash address has been created for each Bitcoin address, which contains the same number of (Bitcoin Cash) currency units. The result is similar to a stock split: 10 Bitcoin becomes 10 Bitcoin + 10 Bitcoin Cash. Those who use their own “wallet” and thus have control over their Bitcoin address(es) can trade both currencies independently since the hard fork.

No legal vacuum

Can the question be clarified legally at all or do crypto currencies float in a legal vacuum? It is true that the existing laws are not made for crypto currencies. How one can grasp Bitcoins under the existing right terms, is therefore partly controversial. This situation is however nothing new for the right. Jurists apply daily regulations to circumstances, which were not considered with the remission of the regulations. Legal tools for such cases are in particular

the broadening interpretation of existing regulations according to “sense and purpose”,
the filling of regulatory gaps through the appropriate application of rules that are not 100% relevant, but fit the bill (“analogous application”), or
the “supplementary interpretation of contracts”, i.e. the filling of gaps in contracts in good faith.
Therefore, nobody has to fear a legal vacuum at Bitcoins. The European Court of Justice, for example, has shown that the law can provide answers. It ruled in 2015 that although Bitcoins is not a legal tender, it must be covered by a certain exception in the law and is therefore not subject to VAT.