You Can’t Own Bitcoins

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By Vin Armani

A Bitcoin private key is a number. A Bitcoin UTXO is a collection of 4 numbers, which are public information. You can’t own a number. You don’t, and can’t, own bitcoins.

Some may view this concept as nothing more than semantics. However, words matter. When you say that you can “own” something, there are legal and regulatory consequences. When you refer to cryptocurrency as “money,” there are even more consequences.

As the US Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network attempts to increase regulations on cryptocurrency, this distinction becomes even more important. Giving the government the authority to regulate numbers opens doors that will be very difficult to close.

Bitcoin is a completely new concept. It doesn’t fit into any definitions under current law. And if you can’t “own” it, and if it is something different than “money,” it can’t be regulated, taxed, or stolen.

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Vin Armani is the author of Self Ownership,  founder of Bitcoin Mystery School, co-founder of Counter Markets, and partner at Coinivore.com. Follow Vin on Twitter.