What is bitcoin? Is it property, something to be owned? Is it a currency, something to be spent? Or is it a commodity, defined by Webster’s Dictionary as “any useful thing,” and/or “anything bought and sold; any article of commerce.”
The Internal Revenue Service thinks bitcoin is property; a federal judge thinks it’s a currency; now the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) has decreed it a commodity. That means the regulator can now bring charges against any wrongdoers trading cryptocurrency futures and options.
In a statement, the CTFC’s Director of Enforcement, Aitan Goelman, said:
“While there is a lot of excitement surrounding Bitcoin and other virtual currencies, innovation does not excuse those acting in this space from following the same rules applicable to all participants in the commodity derivatives markets.”
Does the ruling change the fundamental nature of what bitcoin is? We asked members of the bitcoin community for their views.
The developer: “A bizarre ruling that will be challenged”
“There are so many regulators in the U.S., and they all want more jurisdiction, which leads to a constant stream of bizarre rulings.
“I’m not terribly surprised and not terribly worried. I think the CFTC has a very weak case here and it’s a very creative reinterpretation of what the word commodity means. The ruling will be challenged and judges will apply common sense and decide it to be a currency” as happened in the Silk Road case.
The researcher: “Don’t take it out of context”
“This ruling is obviously very consequential to U.S.-based bitcoin futures trading platforms, but it’s important not to overplay the implications. Last year, the U.K. tax authority ruled that Bitcoin is a currency. Last month a Japanese judge ruled