Singapore High Court declares crypto as personal property, equates it to fiat money.

Singapore High Court declares crypto as personal property, equates it to fiat money.

The Rise of Blockchain Technology: Unlocking the Potential of Digital Assets

Cryptocurrency and the broader concept of blockchain technology have been gaining increasing recognition and acceptance worldwide. Recently, a significant legal ruling by Judge Philip Jeyaretnam of the High Court of Singapore has further solidified the recognition of crypto as property. In a case brought by ByBit against its former employee, the court ruled that stolen USDT, just like any other digital asset, should be considered property. This ruling carries implications beyond the specific case, shedding light on the juridical status of cryptocurrencies and their value.

Judge Jeyaretnam’s ruling, while obvious to some, highlights a critical aspect of cryptocurrencies – mutual faith in their value. He equates crypto with other objects of value such as fiat money or shells, arguing that these objects are all held valuable based on collective belief. In highlighting this shared perception, the Judge draws a captivating analogy, comparing digital tokens to a river. While the water within a river constantly changes, we still give it a name – similarly, we identify digital tokens despite their intangible nature.

Rebuking the notion that cryptocurrencies lack real value, Judge Jeyaretnam emphasizes that value is a judgment formed by human minds. By acknowledging that crypto possesses value, he underscores its classification as a form of property. Expanding on this, the ruling classifies cryptocurrencies as “things in action,” an accepted category in British common law. This classification means that personal rights over cryptocurrencies can be claimed or enforced through legal actions, rather than physical possession.

This landmark ruling also references a consultation paper by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS). The MAS is set to implement segregation and custody requirements for digital payment tokens. By acknowledging the potential for identifying and segregating digital assets, the Judge suggests that holding them on trust would be legally feasible.

Singapore’s legal landscape further supports this recognition. The decision specifically cites Order 22 of Singapore’s Rules of Court 2021, which defines “movable property” to include cryptocurrency and other digital currency. This inclusion signifies the acknowledgment of cryptocurrencies as legitimate forms of digital property under Singaporean law.

Interestingly, this ruling complements an earlier decision by the High Court of Justice in London in May 2022. The London court ruled that non-fungible tokens (NFTs) constitute “private property.” This ruling, hailed as a pivotal precedent for NFT investors, emphasizes the intent of British courts to protect property rights in the context of these unique digital assets.

The growing recognition of cryptocurrencies and digital assets as legitimate forms of property signifies a significant milestone in the blockchain industry. Previously, the intangible nature of cryptocurrencies had raised questions about their legal standing. However, with each passing ruling in favor of their recognition as property, these doubts are gradually dissipating.

This recognition of cryptocurrencies as property also aligns with the broader trend of integrating blockchain technology into traditional financial systems. Governments and regulatory bodies worldwide are beginning to embrace the potential of blockchain technology to streamline processes and enhance transparency. As governments develop regulations and frameworks to govern the use of blockchain technology, the legal recognition of cryptocurrencies as property is an essential step forward.

Just as the current ruling draws attention to the legal status of digital assets, it also underscores the need for trust and security in the blockchain ecosystem. With the immutable and decentralized nature of blockchain technology, users can place their trust in the system rather than relying on intermediaries. However, breaches of trust and security, as seen in the ByBit case, remind us of the importance of robust security measures and vigilant oversight.

In conclusion, Judge Jeyaretnam’s ruling affirms the status of cryptocurrencies as property, strengthening their position within the legal framework. It reinforces the notion that the value of cryptocurrencies goes beyond their physical absence and rests on collective faith. This ruling, along with similar decisions in other jurisdictions, signifies a significant step towards mainstream acceptance of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology. As governments and regulatory bodies continue to explore blockchain’s potential, ensuring trust and security will remain critical for the continued growth and maturation of the blockchain industry.


*Note: This article has been rewritten based on the original content.

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