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The Law Commission of England and Wales, an independent statutory agency charged with evaluating and updating the law, wants to expand property regulations to embrace cryptocurrencies and non-fungible tokens (NFT), according to a consultation document on Thursday.
In addition to legally classifying digital assets as personal property, the proposed revisions might make it simpler for crypto investors to pursue legal action against hacks or frauds.
"Many individuals simply invest in NFTs without asking, 'What happens when things go wrong?'" In an interview, Sarah Green, Commercial and Common Law Commissioner, told CoinDesk. "It is not at all apparent what happens if someone hacks into my wallet and steals my bitcoin, or if this system fails and I cannot access it."
The ostensibly crypto-friendly idea is intended, in part, to assist the U.K. government in achieving its objective of making the nation a worldwide crypto center, according to a statement from the commission. However, the commission’s ideas would not apply in Scotland or Northern Ireland, which have their own legal systems.
Stablecoins, asset-backed cryptocurrencies, were recommended as a legal form of payment to Parliament by banking authorities last week. More stablecoin restrictions are on the horizon, and a government consultation on cryptocurrencies as investment assets is scheduled by the end of the year.
In the consultation document, which solicits feedback from legal and technology experts, the commission avoids cryptocurrencies that act just as payment methods. It focuses instead on digital assets that may be exchanged, used to represent other assets, or utilized as a value storage.
According to the study, existing property rules cannot adequately handle digital assets due to their “many diverse aspects” and “unique properties” compared to traditional physical assets.
The commission stated that “the law must go farther to recognize these distinctive characteristics,” which would establish a solid legal framework for the digital assets market and its consumers.
According to the paper, property law in England and Wales now recognizes two forms of personal property: “Things in possession” for physical goods such as a “gold bag” and “Things in action” for property such as corporate shares that “may only be claimed or enforced by legal action.”
To accommodate digital assets, the Law Commission proposes a new category called “data objects” that would account for items consisting of data in electronic forms, such as databases, software, digital records, domain names, and cryptocurrency.
According to the study, adding a third category would allow for a more nuanced examination of new, emerging, and unique objects.
The consultation said, “It would allow the law to grow by comparison with things in possession or things in activity when appropriate, while also acknowledging that many things do not cleanly fit into either category.”
Since last year, the Law Commission has been working on laws for digital assets and has reached the halfway point of its project. Evaluations of commissions typically need 18 months to complete. The public comment period on the rules will conclude on November 4.
In 2021-concluded research, the commission determined that existing regulations may accept smart contracts that automatically perform and record digital transactions between parties.
The government has also requested that the panel examine laws for decentralized autonomous organizations (DAO), which are governance entities based on blockchain technology. Once the digital assets project is complete, it will investigate DAO-specific legislation.