As the market cap of cryptocurrencies has grown to the point where mainstream financial industry players are jumping aboard the blockchain bandwagon with greater fervor than ever, and NFTs make headlines (and paydays) for famous and obscure celebrities alike, regulators in Beijing and Washington are ramping up their efforts in the space, each in its own way. In China, the moves are headline-grabbing, interventionist, and as frequently with China, perhaps less than meets the eye. Meanwhile in Washington, the approach is shambolic, incrementalistic and, as always in Washington, heavily influenced by the industry subject to the regulation. But both paths lead to greater government control over the cryptocurrency industries.

On Friday, September 24, 2021, China’s central bank announced that all transactions of crypto-currencies and cryptocurrency mining are illegal, intensifying the country’s crackdown on cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. Friday’s statement is the latest and most comprehensive effort yet in China’s commitment to halt cryptocurrency activity in the People’s Republic.

In its announcement, the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) stated that overseas exchanges are barred from providing services to China-based investors and that cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin, are not fiat currency and cannot be circulated. The PBOC justified its action, stating that such activity “seriously endangers the safety of people’s assets.”


Continue Reading A (Crypto) Tale of Two (Capitol) Cities: Beijing and Washington Grapple with a Growing Industry in Their Own Unique Fashions

How do motion picture studios protect their valuable content from piracy during distribution and exhibition in theaters? A recently awarded Disney patent aims to tackle such issues using blockchain, the distributed ledger technology underpinning popular cryptocurrencies.

The patent, “Blockchain Configuration For Secure Content Delivery” outlines the workings of a blockchain-based content distribution system for delivering, monitoring, and controlling playback of audiovisual works delivered to movie theaters. Through such a system, Disney may achieve an advancement in tackling the ongoing problem of piracy leaks when movies are released in theaters.


Continue Reading Disney Patents Blockchain-Based Anti-piracy Movie Distribution System

This post was previously published on Venable’s All About Advertising Law blog.

Game developers and platform providers are increasingly integrating non-fungible tokens (NFTs), virtual currencies, and digital marketplaces into their games and platforms, creating seamless, novel, and interactive experiences. While the industry has moved ahead quickly, federal and state regulators are taking a much closer look at how these technologies fit within existing legal frameworks.

In a recent webinar, partner Ellen Berge and associate Chris Boone of Venable’s Advertising Law and Payments groups explored the latest regulatory developments and addressed how to spot and avoid compliance and regulatory risks associated with NFTs, virtual currencies, and other platform-based monetization mechanics. We received insightful questions from members of the audience, which our lawyers answer below.


Continue Reading You Asked, We Answered: NFTs and Virtual Currency in Games: Compliance Issues and Legal Risks

Game developers and platform providers are increasingly integrating NFTs (non-fungible tokens), virtual currencies, and digital marketplaces into their games and platforms, creating seamless, novel, and interactive experiences. While the industry has moved ahead quickly, federal and state regulators are taking a much closer look at how these technologies fit within existing legal frameworks.

This webinar will explore the latest regulatory developments and address how to spot and avoid compliance and regulatory risks associated with NFTs, virtual currencies, and other platform-based monetization mechanics.


Continue Reading Join Us on July 22 for a Discussion on NFTs and Virtual Currency in Games: Compliance Issues and Legal Risks

Women, that’s who. Why? Because women “get it,” according to the media. Over the past year, there have been a plethora of articles encouraging women to invest in virtual currencies, and, according to the Wall Street Journal, this effort is beginning to yield results.

The WSJ quotes Christine Brown, COO of Robinhood Crypto, as stating that one in four (25%) customers who traded crypto in 2021 was a woman. This is up substantially from the 10%-15% estimate provided by Real Simple in an article earlier this year. (A recent CoinDesk article puts the UK percentage of women investors in crypto at over 40%.)


Continue Reading Who Is Investing in Cryptocurrencies?

As tax season heads into full swing, cryptocurrency traders may be in for a surprise when they sit down to complete their 2020 taxes. This year, for the first time, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is including a question about cryptocurrency transactions on the first page of Individual Income Tax Returns, Form 1040.

The question asks taxpayers if at any time during 2020 they received, sold, sent, exchanged, or otherwise acquired any financial interest in any virtual currency (the IRS’s term for digital, convertible currency, such as Bitcoin, Dogecoin, and the like.)


Continue Reading Purchased Bitcoin in 2020? IRS Might (or Might Not) Require Reporting on Your Tax Return

Mastercard has announced that it will begin supporting select cryptocurrencies directly on its payment network this year. Mastercard made the announcement in February, touting that the change would create “more possibilities for shoppers and merchants,” enabling them to move digital value – traditional or crypto – in a new form of payment.

Unlike Mastercard’s previous endeavors in the blockchain space, such as its partnerships with Wirex and BitPay to offer cryptocurrency debit cards, this change would support digital assets on Mastercard’s network directly. In previous projects, cryptocurrencies did not move through the Mastercard network. Instead, Mastercard’s cryptocurrency partners would convert the digital assets on their end to traditional currencies, then transmit them through the Mastercard network.


Continue Reading Mastercard to Directly Support Cryptocurrencies on Its Payment Network – But Not Bitcoin

On March 11, 2021, a piece of digital art sold for $69,000,000.00 (yes, sixty-nine million United States dollars) at Christie’s Auction House (online, of course). That happened roughly five months after its original sale, meaning that the piece created by the artist known as Beeple sold for over 100,000% of its original price ($66,666.66), pushing Beeple to become one of “the top three most valuable living artists” according to Christie’s. Other than the price, what makes the Beeple sale noteworthy is the fact that the work was in the form of an NFT.

What Is an NFT?

NFT stands for “non-fungible token,” or a bit of digital code written onto a blockchain (also called distributed ledger technology). Through an NFT, a digital asset like a piece of art, a video clip, or the very first Tweet can be permanently registered on a blockchain forever. Ownership and provenance can be verified instantly. For the first time, digital scarcity can be achieved for digital items and, with it, the promise of higher prices for digital assets, outside of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. You might pay a small fortune for an authentic Ted Williams rookie year baseball card, but not for a reproduction made today that is physically identical in every respect. The same idea is fueling a boom in NFTs sold by artists, athletes, and others, because the digital item is registered and its quantity limited. As a result, the owner has “the one” (or one of 100 limited edition items, for example) and can prove it. In this context, ”digital” may now mean scarce, and therefore valuable.


Continue Reading NFTs Promise Digital Scarcity Through the Blockchain for Artists, Athletes, and Celebrities – and an Abundance of New Legal Issues

On March 15, 2021, Ed Wilson was quoted in PYMNTS on the creation of sovereign digital currencies. According to the article, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said last month that central banks should explore creating and issuing sovereign digital currencies. The hypothesis is that such currencies—digital dollars among them—could create “faster, safer and cheaper payments,” she said at a virtual conference. Yellen noted that among the many things to consider is how regulators would “manage money laundering and illicit finance issues.”

Wilson said the rise of cryptocurrencies demands advanced technologies to close the gap with financial criminals. The opportunity to have money on an undisputable and never-forgotten ledger would increase transparency and fairness. With ethical companies and cutting-edge technology, crypto could be the way to a new world order in anti-money laundering (AML), characterized by fairness, efficiency, and accountability.


Continue Reading PYMNTS Quotes Ed Wilson on the Creation—and Risks—of Sovereign Digital Currencies

On Thursday, March 11, a piece of digital art – a JPG file – sold for $69 million. Why would a purely digital work of art ever sell for that much? Scarcity and proof of ownership. That’s right, the underpinning of popular cryptocurrencies – blockchain – is being used to create NFTs (nonfungible tokens) to mint unique pieces of art and other digital collectibles.

The piece, titled “Everydays – The First 5000 Days” was created by Mike Winkelmann, who goes by the name Beeple. Minted as NFT last month, it consists of a collage of all of the artwork Beeple has posted online every day since 2007. You can view the work here.


Continue Reading A JPG File Sells for $69 Million and Historic Tweets Up for Auction as Blockchain and NFTs Explode