(Please do not move this thread to the legal section)
My name is Matthew Elias and I am part of a small group of law students forming a Cryptocurrency Legal Advocacy Group (CLAG). The directors of this group are students at the University of Mississippi School of Law, and are studying to become full fledged attorneys. We are in the process of including students from other law schools in the U.S. and around the world. This idea is loosely based on https://bitcointalk.org/index.php?topic=49841.0
We have setup a preliminary site at http://www.theclag.org/
and are in the process of becoming a Mississippi Non-Profit Corporation (501(c)3, and registered MS charity).
Our incorporation documents can be found here and will be updated upon approval from the MS SOS:http://www.pdfhost.net/index.php?Action=Download&File=8469b84eb1cf0623690f667abfe41503
To clarify, we have more than a year to register as a 501(c)3, and that form is a bear, so I will keep everyone apprised of progress on that.
This work is being carried out under the guidance of Prof. Mercer Bullard. Prof. Bullard is one of the foremost securities law experts in the world. http://www.law.olemiss.edu/faculty_profiles/faculty_bullard.html
. He is really intrigued by the idea of cryptocurrencies, and supports their continued development and adoption. We are also working to contact Wendy Seltzer of the Tor project and Cindy Cohn of the EFF to see if they would be willing to lend their expertise to this effort.
My vision is for CLAG to become a trusted source of legal news and scholarship related to cryptocurrencies. CLAG will release memoranda on a regular basis assessing legal issues related to cryptocurrencies (most topics will be Bitcoin related). For example, our first memo, which we hope to have up by the end of this week will assess the tax-ability of cryptocurrencies under a relatively standard taxation regime. Our inherent bias will be that of a U.S. perspective, but we will do our best to assess these issues from as jurisdictionally-neutral a perspective as is possible. Topics will be selected at the discretion of the board of directors. We also hope to do a short, quick legal FAQ on cryptocurrencies. CLAG functions to provide clarity, education, and consultation, and is in no way providing legal advice.
I won't go into the misleading and perfunctory legal opinions
which have been espoused on this forum, however I will state that CLAG will strive to be an objective source of information, providing legal clarity on issues surrounding cryptocurrencies.
Q: Don't other organizations exist which can take on this exact issue?
A: Maybe. CLAG is positioned as the first-mover in this area. If someone comes along and is able to do it better then so be it.
Q: How can anyone trust law students with such an important issue?
A: This question raises several points. First, attorneys will certainly shape the law in this area by choosing certain arguments, and winning and losing on them. As it exists now however, there is not a great deal of litigation or adjudication happening with cryptocurrencies. To my second point then, because these questions are largely academic, abstract, and metaphysical in nature, unpaid law students are in a great position to tackle them. The risk facing an attorney considering taking on a Bitcoin related case can be untenable, and thus again, the unpaid research of students can be of great value.
Q: How are donations used?
A: Down the road, donations could be a vehicle for a legal fund for actions brought against developers or large miners (maybe). I think in the immediate term though, holding the worlds first cryptocurrnecy legal conference, and attempting to encourage as much scholarship on this issue as possible would be the most beneficial use of funding. Recouping the small amount of overhead is another obvious use.
Q: What if donations go to some bogus cryptocurrency?
A: Consistent with our public purpose, I don't see this as likely. Ear-marked donations may be an option in the future, but right now we are essentially using the terms bitcoin and cryptocurrency synonymously. I also think that it is clear that other cryptocurrencies may arise in the near future. And while they may not ever reach the stature or ubiquity of bitcoin (but... they may), they will undoubtedly share many of the same legal issues.
Q: Why are there only four directors listed on your site when your bylaws require five.
A: We are in the process of filling the vacancy.
Q: Isn't this just centralizing something to its detriment?
A: This is a legitimate concern, and CLAG recognizes the importance of decentralization to all cryptocurrencies. The interplay between cryptocurrencies and various legal systems and jurisdictions is one of the few places from which I think projects can benefit from some centralization. Time will tell if centralized legal advocacy is what brings down cryptocurrencies.
Just to reiterate, I know its not much to look at right now, but we will have our first memo up by the end of this week and more to follow. I will be glad to answer any questions that are not answered by the incorporation docs or the answers above. We also need a logo if anyone is interested. You can donate to CLAG at:1LkJBaMURdB6bWA6DRFeDoYyYJzsXLhtG8
Cryptocurrency Legal Advocacy Group