Tackling sticky questions about cryptocurrency and Open Source from a legal perspective

In the days following the Free Software Foundation Europe Legal Network Conference in Stockholm, an email discussion ensued that brought up challenging questions around cryptocurrency and blockchain distributed ledger technology and Open Source software. Andrew Wilson, retired Open Source strategist, brought together a group of experts (Georg Greve, James Bottomley, Luis Villa, Miriam Ballhausen and Robbie Morrison) who have varied perspectives on the issues for a public panel discussion.

We’ve prepared a summary of the topics explored by the panelists, and the entire video is embedded below.

  1. Is cryptocurrency a valid exercise of freedom, in that other actors besides governments should be free to create their own medium of exchange if all parties agree there is a value there? GDPR is contradicted by the fact that you can’t follow up on individuals in crypto, leaving developers with a target on their back when someone inevitably loses a lot of money and wants to sue. This becomes an open playing field for IP and Open Source lawyers.
  2. Cryptocurrency is a part of the free software movement. It’s a technology stack that is 100% free software, squarely placed within the Open Source values and ethos. But who benefits? We know about crypto benefiting from Open Source, but how has Open Source gained or learned from crypto?
  3. What happens if government-sponsored crypto and Open Source software become a reality? Cryptocurrency is currently backed up by proof of work, which boils down to how many compensation cycles are consumed. This equates to how much energy is consumed, which will likely become too expensive to maintain in the long term.
  4. Speaking of energy, what about the carbon impact of cryptocurrency? This technology can be energy intensive. What systematic and integrated models are being developed to address this?
  5. Cryptocurrency developers are the only Open Source developers who have made billions of dollars writing code. What is the relationship between greed and governance, and how are they both working for the greater good?

 It’s a conversation worth listening to, and you can do that here: