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Author Topic: Ownership vs Possession of bitcoins  (Read 2673 times)
mizerydearia
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September 03, 2011, 11:40:11 PM
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Discuss!  Also, see this.
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September 03, 2011, 11:51:15 PM
 #2

Discuss!  Also, see this.

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September 03, 2011, 11:55:17 PM
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Unless you want to start having the government decide who owns what bitcoins at will, it's best to stick with possession determining this. Demanding the government correct for business mistakes is what led to the bank bailouts and our terrible economy.  That is not what bitcoin is supposed to be about.

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September 04, 2011, 12:05:19 AM
 #4

Discuss!  Also, see this.
I think you meant this link.

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September 04, 2011, 12:08:18 AM
 #5

That linked thread is dumb and will never have a reasonable conclusion since everyone in there has a different idea about what property ownership means, know one knows the law, and everyone assumes that Bitcoin falls under whatever laws they are making up or misappying.
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September 04, 2011, 12:11:24 AM
 #6

My contention to this debate is simple, and I think others will agree with me (though many are not in the intersango thread), that if you have the bitcoin then you are the rightful owner (unless you stole the wallet), because those bitcoin must be digitally signed to you for you to have possession. Bitcoin possession = ownership
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September 04, 2011, 12:18:52 AM
 #7

My contention to this debate is simple, and I think others will agree with me (though many are not in the intersango thread), that if you have the bitcoin then you are the rightful owner (unless you stole the wallet), because those bitcoin must be digitally signed to you for you to have possession. Bitcoin possession = ownership

Some people have mentioned other virtual currency cases.  Someone mentioned items stolen from an MMO account, for example.  I'm not sure that metaphor holds as that usually means stolen via some form of hacking of account information.  This case is more like demanding the courts refund a sale you accidentally made on the WoW auction house because of a buggy addon.  Bitcoin has its own rules and no higher power to appeal to, what's done is done.

If you want the government to act like an MMO company and work out all these disputes for the users, you don't have the same idea of bitcoin as I do.  The lack of government control is one of the main benefits.

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defxor
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September 04, 2011, 12:23:27 AM
 #8

because those bitcoin must be digitally signed to you for you to have possession. Bitcoin possession = ownership

Type of signature is, of course, irrelevant in the eyes of the law.

Quote
In addition to the elements of a contract:
  • a party must have capacity to contract;
  • the purpose of the contract must be lawful;
  • the form of the contract must be legal;
  • the parties must intend to create a legal relationship; and
  • the parties must consent.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contract#Formation

Quote
If a contract is in a written form, and somebody signs it, then the signer is typically bound by its terms regardless of whether he has actually read it,[28] provided the document is contractual in nature.[29] However, affirmative defenses such as duress or unconscionability may enable the signer to avoid his purported obligation. Furthermore, if a party wishes to use a document as the basis of a contract, reasonable notice of its terms must be given to the other party prior to their entry into the contract.[30]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contract#Formalities_and_writing

w00ly
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September 04, 2011, 12:37:59 AM
 #9

because those bitcoin must be digitally signed to you for you to have possession. Bitcoin possession = ownership

Type of signature is, of course, irrelevant in the eyes of the law.

Quote
  • the parties must intend to create a legal relationship; and
  • the parties must consent.
Your initiation of a transfer and signing of the transaction are both your intent and consent, respectively.
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September 04, 2011, 12:39:48 AM
 #10

Your initiation of a transfer and signing of the transaction are both your intent and consent, respectively.

No, as shown with the ATM example I gave you in the other thread. A software bug is not, and cannot ever be, consent.

w00ly
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September 04, 2011, 12:46:28 AM
 #11

Your initiation of a transfer and signing of the transaction are both your intent and consent, respectively.

No, as shown with the ATM example I gave you in the other thread. A software bug is not, and cannot ever be, consent.
1) these are not ATMs, certainly do not fall under the same rules and regulations (at present anyway)
2) I did not say the bug is consent, but the signature. What do you propose we do about this "bug" issue in the future then eh? Can I set someone up with a bitcoin wallet, send them all of my bitcoins with erroneously coded software and then prosecute them? I think not.
3) Do you know 100% for a fact that a software bug caused that issue? Provide solid evidence apart from an IRC log that it was not intersango's intent to send the btc and that a bug caused the issue
4) whether you want it to or not, bitcoin has no regard for "intent", you're thinking of paypal, those transactions can be reversed, perhaps PPUSD is a better currency for you

Ultimately you must be responsible with your bitcoin, because there is no forgiveness. If you code bad software that signs away your btc, that is your issue, not the receiver's
defxor
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September 04, 2011, 12:51:59 AM
 #12

1) these are not ATMs, certainly do not fall under the same rules and regulations (at present anyway)

Irrelevant.

Quote from: w00ly
2) I did not say the bug is consent, but the signature. What do you propose we do about this "bug" issue in the future then eh? Can I set someone up with a bitcoin wallet, send them all of my bitcoins with erroneously coded software and then prosecute them? I think not.

That's why you have to show that there was intent (and consent).

Quote from: w00ly
3) Do you know 100% for a fact that a software bug caused that issue? Provide solid evidence apart from an IRC log that it was not intersango's intent to send the btc and that a bug caused the issue

The thief has admitted.

Quote from: w00ly
4) whether you want it to or not, bitcoin has no regard for "intent", you're thinking of paypal, those transactions can be reversed, perhaps PPUSD is a better currency for you

Technical ability for reversals is of no relevance to the law. "But your honor, is technically impossible for me to return the stolen car!"

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September 04, 2011, 01:06:30 AM
 #13

Irrelevant.
That was my point, the ATM analogy is irrelevant because they're vastly different in their implementation and uses.

That's why you have to show that there was intent (and consent).
Explain to me then how we're supposed to have automatic transactions then? Do you expect someone running an exchange to click an "I consent" button every trade? No. THAT'S WHAT THE SIGNATURE IS FOR, IT IS YOUR CONSENT

The thief has admitted.
Ok so he admitted it, the point I was getting at is due to the nature of these transactions you cant be 100% sure. Do we KNOW the person who admitting is the person who actually received the 511 BTC?
Technical ability for reversals is of no relevance to the law. "But your honor, is technically impossible for me to return the stolen car!"
Alright fine, let's look at the issue of "intent" in another way, in regards to intersango specifically. I maintain that intersango intended to send 511btc because they set up software to do that very thing and sign the transactions for them.
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September 04, 2011, 06:42:56 AM
 #14

Unless you want to start having the government decide who owns what bitcoins at will, it's best to stick with possession determining this.

So, mtgox owns 500,000 btc?
defxor
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September 04, 2011, 09:47:23 AM
 #15

That was my point, the ATM analogy is irrelevant because they're vastly different in their implementation and uses.

The law does not care about your technical implementation. You claimed a bug in software has intent, I showed that in the eyes of the law it hasn't.

Quote
Explain to me then how we're supposed to have automatic transactions then? Do you expect someone running an exchange to click an "I consent" button every trade? No. THAT'S WHAT THE SIGNATURE IS FOR, IT IS YOUR CONSENT

Do you believe writing in caps somehow increase the validity of your argument?

Quote
Do we KNOW the person who admitting is the person who actually received the 511 BTC?

Irrelevant to our argument, that's up to the court to decide.

Quote
Alright fine, let's look at the issue of "intent" in another way, in regards to intersango specifically. I maintain that intersango intended to send 511btc because they set up software to do that very thing and sign the transactions for them.

Yes, you indeed keep maintaining a lot of things of which you can show no backing in law whatsoever. See the ATM example.
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September 09, 2011, 06:04:47 PM
 #16

In addition to the elements of a contract:
  • a party must have capacity to contract;
  • the purpose of the contract must be lawful;
  • the form of the contract must be legal;
  • the parties must intend to create a legal relationship; and
  • the parties must consent.

You know your legal opinions aren't worth anything, right?

Here are the facts:

-A BitCoin address allegedly owned by Ben Davis received 512 BitCoins in 1 BTC increments from an address allegedly owned by Intersango.
-Something or someone with access to the BitCoin address transferred these BitCoins to a different address.
-Intersango allegedly sent three emails to BenDavis requesting that 511 BitCoins be returned then threatening legal action when they were rebuffed.
-A conversation allegedly took place between Intersango and BenDavis on a chat channel.
-The same BenDavis allegedly logged onto bitcointalk.org and made statements.

Here's your opinion, which is worth nothing in a court of law unless you're a practicing lawyer:

"Intersango didn't intend to create a legal relationship and didn't consent to the release of his BTC."

Are you an expert in the legal interpretation and application of law?  i.e. are you a practicing lawyer?  Can you quote me the legal definition of "intent to create a legal relationship" and "consent" on the spot?  Yes?  Then great, go ahead and represent Intersango before a judge and earn a fee, then your legal opinions will be "worth something".  No?  Then take your armchair lawyering somewhere else, the law is not cut and dry as your statements suggest it is.

Now, for my legal opinion, which you can all take with a grain of salt:

In reality, simply making up an ex post facto excuse like "whoops, I accidentally sent you a cheque for $500 in the mail last year because it fell into the envelope I sent you when I wasn't looking, you owe me $500 plus interest" is about as trustworthy as "nuh uh, you told me in a private, unrecorded conversation with no witnesses you were giving it to me for free so I spent it".  Lack of "intent" and "consent" must be proven to have existed ex ante.  I don't even recall what reason Ben and Phantom were interacting for, but if it was a verbal agreement you can't claim that the excess 511 BTC wasn't verbally agreed on (you can't really claim that it was, either, but that's irrelevant; neither party has a case, in my mind, to either show an agreement or demonstrate that they acted as though there was an agreement).  You need to demonstrate the so called 'bug' was, in fact, 'real'.  The fact of the matter is, Phantom allegedly sent 511 to Ben BTC and then cried foul; if there was an actual signed agreement of what or at least an ex ante record of something, somewhere that shows that Phantom meant to send 1 instead of 512, then sure.

With an ATM, it's simple: you ask to withdraw $50, it stores this fact on a database and deducts $50 from your account, then spits out $500, that's clear cut and dry what you both consented for was $50 and what you accidentally received was $500.  They can probably point out the programming error and show that somewhere it converted the $50 into $500 internally even though it clearly doesn't do this with any other amount.

In actual fact, the "intention" to "create a legal relationship" occurs when two parties make any sort of attempt to agree to any sort of exchange; the legal relationship may not be finalized but the intent to create it is there.  The real Ben can claim that he purchased something for 512 BTC via a verbal agreement and he had no contact from Intersango.

The "consent" clause is muddier.  If you can show that there was 1. an actual bug, and then 2. that Ben should have known it was a bug, then you can proceed to 1. claim lack of consent as the reason contract was made and that Ben owes the BTC back, and then 2. claim that there's a case for a criminal prosecution of Ben.  If they've already fixed the bug and kept no copies... I'm not liking their case.  If they have no supporting documentation that shows what the agreement was, if any, then I'm not liking their chances of getting Ben prosecuted, either.

And they've got to prove that the people claiming who they are on the forums and in the chats are who they claim they are.  Why?

It's pretty easy for me to make an account called "Joe Schmoe" then use this account to "admit" "Joe Schmoe" "stole" money from me.  Then try to get the real Joe Schmoe prosecuted.

Out of curiosity, do we know for absolute certain that the Intersango guy didn't simply create multiple user names on chat, an account on Intersango, and send the coins to himself and then "argue" with himself and try to convince us all that he was really the victim and not the profiteer?

$4,000+ is a fair sum of cash, and with all the scams going on nowadays...

Just making sure and wondering if anyone considered it.
mizerydearia
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September 09, 2011, 06:27:53 PM
 #17

Does anyone else feel strange when they see strange case usage? https://bitcointalk.org/index.php?topic=7413.0
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September 09, 2011, 06:37:08 PM
 #18

Does anyone else feel strange when they see strange case usage? https://bitcointalk.org/index.php?topic=7413.0

I have adopted using Bitcoin to refer to the project itself and BTC to refer to the currency.

See above, but replace BTC above with BitCoin, and append the following to the end in place of the period: ", with BTC as it's short form."

Bitcoin = client/project, BitCoin = currency (hence the emphasis on "Coin"), BTC = short form for BitCoin.  That's just my convention, anyways.

Also:

I wasn't trying to be correct, I was just creating an arbitrary convention for readability [...].  I'm not overly attached to it, but it does have the advantage of being unambiguous

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September 09, 2011, 06:47:24 PM
 #19

Unless you want to start having the government decide who owns what bitcoins at will, it's best to stick with possession determining this.

So, mtgox owns 500,000 btc?


Doesn't it make you wonder when they are going to announce another hack and shutdown like mybitcoin did?   Undecided

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September 09, 2011, 06:48:25 PM
 #20

If Intersango didn't want to give BenDavis 511 bitcoins, they would write code that doesn't give it away so freely.
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