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Author Topic: Is stealing Bitcoins illegal?  (Read 24205 times)
Nolo
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November 17, 2012, 05:26:04 PM
 #41

  Property is simply any physical or intangible entity owned by a person.  A bitcoin would be an intangible entity, just as a checking account would be an intangible entity. 

From what I've read, it's not so simple. At least not in the US or the UK. It seems like intangible property is quite strictly defined, and Bitcoin doesn't really fall under any of the definitions.

I don't understand this checking account comparison. I'm not sure how one would steal a checking account. Obviously they could steal the contents, that would be pretty simple, but to steal the actual account is a curious thought. It seems fairly impossible. It seems to me that you don't actually own a checking account. You own the money inside. The account is merely a way of keeping track of that money. Can you elucidate a bit on this idea so that I understand what you mean?

I can't speak, to UK law, as I have no clue what it says.  But in the US intangible property really isn't that strictly defined.  It is basically anything you can't see or touch that has value.  Since the previous poster used the Texas state statute, we'll stick to that.  

Quote
(6) "Intangible personal property" means a claim, interest (other than an interest in tangible property), right, or other thing that has value but cannot be seen, felt, weighed, measured, or otherwise perceived by the senses, although its existence may be evidenced by a document. It includes a stock, bond, note or account receivable, franchise, license or permit, demand or time deposit, certificate of deposit, share account, share certificate account, share deposit account, insurance policy, annuity, pension, cause of action, contract, and goodwill.

Anything that has value yet cannot be perceived by the senses is intangible property.  That strikes me as the very essence of a bitcoin.  

The state of TX then goes on to list numerous examples.

Most of these are difficult to steal, I'll grant you.  But if you do, you have committed theft.  

Charlie Kelly: I'm pleading the 5th.  The Attorney: I would advise you do that.  Charlie Kelly: I'll take that advice under cooperation, alright? Now, let's say you and I go toe-to-toe on bird law and see who comes out the victor?  The Attorney: You know, I don't think I'm going to do anything close to that and I can clearly see you know nothing about the law.
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reyals
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November 17, 2012, 05:49:07 PM
 #42

The part you didn't bold is where I feel bitcoin falls in the Texas statute. 
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"Intangible personal property" means a claim, interest (other than an interest in tangible property), right, or other thing that has value but cannot be seen, felt, weighed, measured, or otherwise perceived by the senses, although its existence may be evidenced by a document.

The part you bolded was just a bunch of examples the TX legislature gave.  It isn't meant to be an exclusive list. 
It's a complete list of examples and none come close to bitcoin.

Maybe we can try Florida?
(14) “Intangible property” includes, by way of illustration and not limitation:
(a) Moneys, checks, drafts, deposits, interest, dividends, and income.
(b) Credit balances, customer overpayments, security deposits and other instruments as defined by chapter 679, refunds, unpaid wages, unused airline tickets, and unidentified remittances.
(c) Stocks, and other intangible ownership interests in business associations.
(d) Moneys deposited to redeem stocks, bonds, bearer bonds, original issue discount bonds, coupons, and other securities, or to make distributions.
(e) Amounts due and payable under the terms of insurance policies.
(f) Amounts distributable from a trust or custodial fund established under a plan to provide any health, welfare, pension, vacation, severance, retirement, death, stock purchase, profit sharing, employee savings, supplemental unemployment insurance, or similar benefit.

Still nothing that comes close to bitcoin.


Your problem is you don't seem to understand that your wallet.dat is not 'filled' with bitcoins.  It's just a big long number... it's the same as someone stealing your password.  Even you should be able to see that charging someone with stealing a password is absurd.  It's the actions you take with the stolen password that matter.
So you can't STEAL bitcoins.  You can only gain unauthorized access to the network and execute actions and that's covered under standard computer law.
The real legal question is it's easy to see how someone can gain unauthorized access to a big monolithic server with a password but it would be interesting to see how the law comes down on unauthorized access to a p2p network with a private crypto key....  That's where the real legal loophole might be.
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November 17, 2012, 06:00:15 PM
 #43

The part you didn't bold is where I feel bitcoin falls in the Texas statute. 
Quote
"Intangible personal property" means a claim, interest (other than an interest in tangible property), right, or other thing that has value but cannot be seen, felt, weighed, measured, or otherwise perceived by the senses, although its existence may be evidenced by a document.

The part you bolded was just a bunch of examples the TX legislature gave.  It isn't meant to be an exclusive list. 
It's a complete list of examples and none come close to bitcoin.

Maybe we can try Florida?
(14) “Intangible property” includes, by way of illustration and not limitation:
(a) Moneys, checks, drafts, deposits, interest, dividends, and income.
(b) Credit balances, customer overpayments, security deposits and other instruments as defined by chapter 679, refunds, unpaid wages, unused airline tickets, and unidentified remittances.
(c) Stocks, and other intangible ownership interests in business associations.
(d) Moneys deposited to redeem stocks, bonds, bearer bonds, original issue discount bonds, coupons, and other securities, or to make distributions.
(e) Amounts due and payable under the terms of insurance policies.
(f) Amounts distributable from a trust or custodial fund established under a plan to provide any health, welfare, pension, vacation, severance, retirement, death, stock purchase, profit sharing, employee savings, supplemental unemployment insurance, or similar benefit.

Still nothing that comes close to bitcoin.


Your problem is you don't seem to understand that your wallet.dat is not 'filled' with bitcoins.  It's just a big long number... it's the same as someone stealing your password.  Even you should be able to see that charging someone with stealing a password is absurd.  It's the actions you take with the stolen password that matter.
So you can't STEAL bitcoins.  You can only gain unauthorized access to the network and execute actions and that's covered under standard computer law.
The real legal question is it's easy to see how someone can gain unauthorized access to a big monolithic server with a password but it would be interesting to see how the law comes down on unauthorized access to a p2p network with a private crypto key....  That's where the real legal loophole might be.

I would say that Bitcoins fall in the category of "Money".

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November 17, 2012, 06:30:57 PM
 #44

I would say that Bitcoins fall in the category of "Money".
100% NO
'Money' only comes from the government.
Sticking with Florida
UNIFORM COMMERCIAL CODE: GENERAL PROVISIONS

671.201 General definitions.—Unless the context otherwise requires, words or phrases defined in this section, or in the additional definitions contained in other chapters of this code which apply to particular chapters or parts thereof, have the meanings stated. Subject to definitions contained in other chapters of this code which apply to particular chapters or parts thereof, the term:
.....
(24) “Money” means a medium of exchange currently authorized or adopted by a domestic or foreign government. The term includes a monetary unit of account established by an intergovernmental organization or by agreement between two or more countries.
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November 17, 2012, 06:42:18 PM
 #45

The part you didn't bold is where I feel bitcoin falls in the Texas statute.  
Quote
"Intangible personal property" means a claim, interest (other than an interest in tangible property), right, or other thing that has value but cannot be seen, felt, weighed, measured, or otherwise perceived by the senses, although its existence may be evidenced by a document.

The part you bolded was just a bunch of examples the TX legislature gave.  It isn't meant to be an exclusive list.  
It's a complete list of examples and none come close to bitcoin.

Maybe we can try Florida?
(14) “Intangible property” includes, by way of illustration and not limitation:
(a) Moneys, checks, drafts, deposits, interest, dividends, and income.
(b) Credit balances, customer overpayments, security deposits and other instruments as defined by chapter 679, refunds, unpaid wages, unused airline tickets, and unidentified remittances.
(c) Stocks, and other intangible ownership interests in business associations.
(d) Moneys deposited to redeem stocks, bonds, bearer bonds, original issue discount bonds, coupons, and other securities, or to make distributions.
(e) Amounts due and payable under the terms of insurance policies.
(f) Amounts distributable from a trust or custodial fund established under a plan to provide any health, welfare, pension, vacation, severance, retirement, death, stock purchase, profit sharing, employee savings, supplemental unemployment insurance, or similar benefit.

Still nothing that comes close to bitcoin.


Your problem is you don't seem to understand that your wallet.dat is not 'filled' with bitcoins.  It's just a big long number... it's the same as someone stealing your password.  Even you should be able to see that charging someone with stealing a password is absurd.  It's the actions you take with the stolen password that matter.
So you can't STEAL bitcoins.  You can only gain unauthorized access to the network and execute actions and that's covered under standard computer law.
The real legal question is it's easy to see how someone can gain unauthorized access to a big monolithic server with a password but it would be interesting to see how the law comes down on unauthorized access to a p2p network with a private crypto key....  That's where the real legal loophole might be.

I don't know what to say to that other than you've taken the position that you have taken, and are not willing to adopt a view contrary.  

Do you believe identity theft is legal?  

And please don't tell me I don't understand something.  That's terribly rude, especially in light of the argument you are attempting to make.  

I really don't believe the law could be any more clear on the issue.  Bitcoins have value.  Stealing them is a crime.  Both a state and federal crime (since you are involved in interstate commerce when the theft occurs).  

If you can cite to me any law whatsoever that seems to support your position that the theft of virtual goods that have value is not theft, then I would be very interested to read that. 

Charlie Kelly: I'm pleading the 5th.  The Attorney: I would advise you do that.  Charlie Kelly: I'll take that advice under cooperation, alright? Now, let's say you and I go toe-to-toe on bird law and see who comes out the victor?  The Attorney: You know, I don't think I'm going to do anything close to that and I can clearly see you know nothing about the law.
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reyals
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November 17, 2012, 08:12:27 PM
 #46

I don't know what to say to that other than you've taken the position that you have taken, and are not willing to adopt a view contrary. 

Do you believe identity theft is legal? 

And please don't tell me I don't understand something.  That's terribly rude, especially in light of the argument you are attempting to make. 

I really don't believe the law could be any more clear on the issue.  Bitcoins have value.  Stealing them is a crime.  Both a state and federal crime (since you are involved in interstate commerce when the theft occurs). 

If you can cite to me any law whatsoever that seems to support your position that the theft of virtual goods that have value is not theft, then I would be very interested to read that. 
Bitcoins aren't virtual goods...  They aren't goods at all.  It's simply a ledger of 'transactions'.  Bitcoins aren't a real thing they don't even represent a real thing.  There are no bitcoins on your computer there are no bitcoins anywhere.  Only the argeed upon rules of the 'game' allow bitcoins to exist.


Basiclly you have a file on your computer that says
5 to bob
6 from sue
1 to mack
4 from bob
3 to sue
and so on

And I log into your computer
and add
1000 to reyals

That's theft?  Because that's what you're saying.  I haven't taken anything I've simply created a frauduinty entry in a ledger of a system that is afford no special legal proection (which is why this would be a crime if you tried it with stocks)

If data representing nonreal things was afford these protections then it would open a huge can of worms...
Can someone be arrested for taking my stuff in EvE online even though it's allowed by the game?  No?
So then they could be arrested for taking stuff in WoW because it's not allowed there?  Yes?
Ok so if Dark Ages of Camelot crashes and deletes my items is Mythic liabel for destroying my property?
What if someone hacks WoW and deletes my items?  Does blizzard have to pay?  I mean the items were in their 'bank'.

Lets be totally assine now.  What if I hack bitcointalk.org and change my post count to 10000 and yours to 1?  Did I steal posts from you? Because that's what you're saying. 


Bitcoin is to weird...  If bitcoin wants to be protected by theft statues then the law needs to be updated.  Right now though it's still protected by computer laws.
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November 17, 2012, 08:31:38 PM
 #47

It's illegal. Scamming and stealing and hacking are all illegal. And if courts are stupid we explain the bitcoin.

That's not how it works. You can't just explain something to a court. There has to be a law against it.

They realise it has a large real world value.

Do they? How can you be so sure?

No law references the virtual currencies.

That's right. That is the problem.

But under the general 4 laws of society.
No stealing
No murder.
No terrorism.
No scamming.

There are no general laws for society. That's not how the law works. There are specific laws for specific situations. Legislation is not the ten commandments from the Bible.

There are general laws of morality that apply to all humans, regardless of one's belief in them (or lack thereof). The constitution of the USA (correctly) acknowledges the rights of all individuals under God. It is this reality that all who presume to reside in a moral vacuum, are blinded against.
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November 17, 2012, 10:59:49 PM
 #48

It's a complete list of examples and none come close to bitcoin.

The list was not exclusive, as has already been pointed out.

Maybe we can try Florida?

Sure!

(14) “Intangible property” includes, by way of illustration and not limitation:

There you go!
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November 18, 2012, 12:15:27 AM
 #49

Quote
"Intangible personal property" means a claim, interest (other than an interest in tangible property), right, or other thing that has value but cannot be seen, felt, weighed, measured, or otherwise perceived by the senses, although its existence may be evidenced by a document."
Is it really that hard to see if Bitcoin falls into this definition?

Is a Bitcoin address a claim, interest, right or "other thing"?
Does a Bitcoin address have value?
Can a Bitcoin address be seen, felt, weighed, measured, or otherwise perceived by the senses?
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November 18, 2012, 12:24:57 AM
 #50

Does a Bitcoin address have value?

I would change this to say "Does a Bitcoin private key have value", to which the answer is yes, because only with the key you can sign a transaction transferring the value stored in the block chain.
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November 18, 2012, 12:28:53 AM
 #51

Does a Bitcoin address have value?

I would change this to say "Does a Bitcoin private key have value", to which the answer is yes, because only with the key you can sign a transaction transferring the value stored in the block chain.
Alternately, you can refer to unspent outputs.
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November 18, 2012, 12:37:42 AM
 #52

(14) “Intangible property” includes, by way of illustration and not limitation:

There you go!
Of course it isn't inclusive... it doesn't list a great many types of financial derivatives
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Derivative_(finance)
But they still protected.
It has to be similar to thing things on the list; IE you can't steal air for example no matter how much value you'd like to assign to it because it's like nothing else on the list.

Is it really that hard to see if Bitcoin falls into this definition?

Is a Bitcoin address a claim, interest, right or "other thing"?
No!
That's why people share them in their freaking sigs. It's an account number.  You can't steal someone's account number.
Does a Bitcoin address have value?
Absolutely not.  If they did I can generate a few 1000 address per second.  You want to buy some?
Can a Bitcoin address be seen, felt, weighed, measured, or otherwise perceived by the senses?
No?  That doesn't seem germane though...
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November 18, 2012, 12:41:23 AM
 #53

Does a Bitcoin address have value?

I would change this to say "Does a Bitcoin private key have value", to which the answer is yes, because only with the key you can sign a transaction transferring the value stored in the block chain.
Does a password have value?  A private key is a password and you can't steal a password.  If you could pastebin would be guilty of a billion counts of handling stolen property every time anonymous posted their latest password dump.
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November 18, 2012, 01:06:02 AM
 #54

It has to be similar to thing things on the list; IE you can't steal air for example no matter how much value you'd like to assign to it because it's like nothing else on the list.

Aaaaand back to the Supreme court of the Netherlands:

Quote
Under article 310 of the Criminal Code it is a criminal offence to deliberately take de facto control of any good belonging to another person with the intention of unlawfully appropriating it. The term 'any good' has an autonomous definition under the criminal law. An intangible object may be considered a good provided it is an object that by its nature can be removed from the de facto control of another person.

Using another person's private key to sign over the control over their bitcoins to yourself fits the above definition quite well.

(Don't worry, the same reasoning applies in other countries as well)

And yes, using a password you find on pastebin to take control over someone else's property would also apply.
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November 18, 2012, 02:07:34 AM
 #55

Why is it so important to you people that bitcoins be prosecuted as theft?
If it's so important to you get the laws changed.  You want an example of a law that would likely protect you?

Here let us read New Jersey's.

2C:20-1. Definitions.

  "Property" means anything of value, including real estate, tangible and intangible personal property, trade secrets, contract rights, choses in action and other interests in or claims to wealth, admission or transportation tickets, captured or domestic animals, food and drink, electric, gas, steam or other power, financial instruments, information, data, and computer software, in either human readable or computer readable form, copies or originals.

Sounds a little different doesn't it?

Bitcoins are probably considered propriety in New Jersey but many other places do not enumerate such specific rights.
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November 18, 2012, 07:08:13 AM
 #56

Sounds a little different doesn't it?

Bitcoins are probably considered propriety in New Jersey but many other places do not enumerate such specific rights.
Ah I see. Stealing bitcoins from someone living in New Jersey is illegal but stealing bitcoins from someone living in Iran or Syria is legal? Sounds like a double standard to me.
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November 18, 2012, 07:54:44 AM
 #57

Yes, without finding the most relevant supreme court decision.

So what? I already acknowledged that there is a good chance that the Dutch legal would prosecute theft of Bitcoins. I appreciate you providing additional evidence to support that, but there is no need to be so combative about it. As you saw in the OP, I had already mentioned the Netherlands. I think it's more relevant to the debate if you bring up something I haven't already acknowledged, don't you? Many other people have made great contributions to the debate, but all you have done is reiterate a point I already made and try to somehow use it against me, haha.

To answer the question you pose in the OP: Yes, stealing Bitcoins is illegal, and would be prosecuted everywhere there's a functioning legal system.

Really? What a big assertion. EVERYWHERE there's a functioning legal system you say? Hmm...

I haven't seen you provide any relevant evidence from Columbian law, or the legal code of Burkina Faso.

Seems to me like you are using Dutch law as evidence for a global standard!

Don't you realise that:

Amazingly there's more than one society in the world.

 Cheesy

I think you have been shmoking too much of those lovely Dutch spliffs, yesh?
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November 18, 2012, 08:39:34 AM
 #58

To answer the question you pose in the OP: Yes, stealing Bitcoins is illegal, and would be prosecuted everywhere there's a functioning legal system.
Really? What a big assertion. EVERYWHERE there's a functioning legal system you say? Hmm...
I'll go one step further: Stealing Bitcoins is illegal everywhere there has ever been a functioning legal system. How am I so sure? Because any legal system where stealing is not illegal is by definition not functioning. I presume the most common argument is going to be that there's some technicality a thief could get off on; but a system where the laws are interpreted in such a strict sense is just another kind of non-functioning brokenness. In a functioning legal system, the court doesn't care what was stolen or how it is done: just that it was stolen.

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November 18, 2012, 09:46:43 AM
 #59

If it's so important to you get the laws changed

No need, existing laws cover Bitcoin theft just fine. Numerous examples have been posted.

Seems to me like you are using Dutch law as evidence for a global standard!

No, but I am European and know how unlikely it is for the EU court to have a different opinion. If it was likely the Dutch case would've already been on its way there. Other examples posted in this thread supports the same applying to the US.

If there are laws against something in the EU and US it's very unlikely for other countries who want to be part of global trade to take a different stance.

Cited for your convenience, the definition of 'goods' in the EU:

Quote
3 . 1 . 2 .   M E A N I N G   O F   ‘ G O O D S ’
Articles 34  and 35  TFEU cover all types of imports and exports of goods and products. The range of goods covered is as wide as the range of goods in existence, so long as they have economic value: 'by goods, within the meaning of the … Treaty, there must be understood products which can be valued in money and which are capable, as such, of forming the subject of commercial transactions'

The law most certainly covers stealing of goods.

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November 19, 2012, 03:32:16 AM
 #60

Sounds a little different doesn't it?

Bitcoins are probably considered propriety in New Jersey but many other places do not enumerate such specific rights.
Ah I see. Stealing bitcoins from someone living in New Jersey is illegal but stealing bitcoins from someone living in Iran or Syria is legal? Sounds like a double standard to me.
Sigh...
Stealing bit coins while in New Jersey is illegal.   Not from.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jurisdiction
And seriously you post New Jersey VS Iran/Syria and want to talk about double standards??? -cough-

And stealing bitcoins is always illegal because it likely violates the laws on unauthorized access.


If it's so important to you get the laws changed

No need, existing laws cover Bitcoin theft just fine. Numerous examples have been posted.
I'm the only one that's posted a law that might cover Bitcoin.

Quote
3 . 1 . 2 .   M E A N I N G   O F   ‘ G O O D S ’
Articles 34  and 35  TFEU cover all types of imports and exports of goods and products. The range of goods covered is as wide as the range of goods in existence, so long as they have economic value: 'by goods, within the meaning of the … Treaty, there must be understood products which can be valued in money and which are capable, as such, of forming the subject of commercial transactions'

The law most certainly covers stealing of goods.
There are no goods... why is this so hard for you to understand?
If I log into your trading account and transfer stock out I've stolen STOCK.
If I log into account and sell off all your corn futures I've stolen CORN.  (technically no... but good enough for an example)

If I use your private key to transfer out some bitcoins what have I stolen?  Bitcoins?  THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS BITCOINS.
Bitcoins are just an agreement between all the participants in the network to trade imgenary units with each other.

If you can just call anything with value a good then eve online is filled with criminals yet no one has ever been arrested?
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