Imagine a world where you could easily register and claim ownership over your original creative works – from music to photos to blogs. Gone would be the days of seeing your work duplicated all over the internet without proper credit and having no way to prove ownership. With the use of blockchain technology, that world is not so far away. Distributed ledger technology promises to transform the way intellectual property rights are established and enforced – and the way IP creators are compensated.

Before joining Steptoe, I oversaw the Justice Department’s IP criminal enforcement program.  In that role, I worked closely with others in law enforcement and with the content industry – from film and television to publishing to music – in an effort to try to stop piracy and to ensure that artists and creators of all types of IP were protected.  At that time, the world was just beginning to hear about Bitcoin but had yet to discover the many other applications for blockchain technology that go far beyond digital currencies.

Today, however, as “blockchain” is on its way to becoming a household word, we’re poised for a revolution in the protection of all types of IP.  That’s because the blockchain can be used to control and track the distribution of protected IP.  By putting IP on the blockchain, creators would have an immutable, secure, time-stamped record of the creation and distribution of their works.  In addition, it can be used to establish and enforce licenses for IP through smart contracts and even to transmit payments in real-time to IP owners.


Continue Reading Can the Blockchain Block IP Theft?

Following the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, polls show that Americans identify terrorism—more than any other issue—as the most important problem facing the US.  In this environment, some media outlets have predicted a pending “crackdown” on digital currencies, particularly by European governments, because of the risk that the technology could be used to fund terrorism.

But do digital currencies like bitcoin actually pose a unique threat when it comes to funding terrorist networks?  Jason Weinstein published a post on Medium earlier this week—“Combating Bitcoin Use by Terrorists?”—that seeks to answer this question.


Continue Reading Bitcoin and Terrorist Financing

It’s only been about a week since New York’s outgoing Superintendent of Financial Services Ben Lawsky released the long-awaited “BitLicense” rules for digital currency businesses operating in New York, but it’s not too early to try to assess the potential impact of those rules on the development of Bitcoin-related businesses and emerging financial technologies.

The primary question on everyone’s mind: Are the BitLicense regulations – the product of a nearly two-year rulemaking process – good or bad for Bitcoin? The answer: A little of both. The truth is that the BitLicense rules are a mixed bag, and how you perceive them depends to some extent on whether your glass is half-full or half-empty.


Continue Reading Are New York’s BitLicense Rules Good or Bad for Bitcoin?

Most people who’ve heard of “Bitcoin” know it only as a virtual currency sometimes used by criminals.  But there are entrepreneurs, engineers, venture capitalists, and bankers who are betting big on the untapped economic potential of the “blockchain” – the underlying technology that makes Bitcoin run.  In a sense, Bitcoin is just the first “app” to use the blockchain technology.  There will be many other apps in the years to come that could transform the way we do business, the way we move assets, and, through the Internet of Things, even the way we live.  But for the blockchain’s potential to be realized, Bitcoin cannot be perceived as the “currency of criminals” – and that means law enforcement has to be able to go after those who would use Bitcoin and the blockchain to commit crimes.

Continue Reading Why Bitcoin is Good for Law Enforcement – and Why Law Enforcement is Good for Bitcoin