Is Bitcoin Protected As Speech Under The 1st Amendment? Experts Answer


Publish Date:
August 26, 2019
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There is a concept that exists in the crypto space that effectively states: Bitcoin (BTC) is code, code is speech and speech is protected under United States law. We asked legal experts in digital rights, the First Amendment and crypto to comment on the statement.

The claims are based on arguments from before the days of Bitcoin, which posit software as free speech, and thus state that it should be protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. constitution. The topic was evidently first brought to public attention back in 1999, when digital publisher Eric Corley went to court against Universal City Studios Inc. for publishing source code that decodes DVDs.

Mark A. Lemley, William H. Neukom professor at Stanford Law School, director of the Stanford Program in Law, Science and Technology

While software can be expressive, and is sometimes protected as speech, it can also function, so it is properly subject to significantly more regulation than true speech.

Regulation of cryptocurrencies as currencies or securities aren’t regulating them for their expressive content but for their function.

The First Amendment won’t block that regulation, any more than it would protect a site that posted hacked passwords. The passwords are speech, but speaking isn’t what is being regulated.

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