This is a guest post by Louis Myers, the Law Library’s Librarian-in-Residence.
Recent economic and geopolitical events have caused an increase in searches and requests for information about cryptocurrency regulation and legislation. The Law Library of Congress has compiled and maintained reports with information and resources on cryptocurrency and block chain for international jurisdictions, including Regulation of Cryptocurrency Around the World and Regulatory Approaches to Cryptoassets. Today, we bring you an introductory guide to cryptocurrency regulations and resources in the United States. Due to the emergent nature of regulation and legislation on cryptocurrency, we have focused more heavily on resources that are frequently updated while still including traditional secondary sources like law review articles, manuscripts, and treatises.
Federal Law Resources
Much of the regulatory activity at the federal level regarding cryptocurrency has been overseen by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).
- The IRS has issued guidance on the classification of cryptocurrencies as property for tax purposes.
- The SEC is also actively involved with regulation of cryptocurrency, having issued guidance on Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) and guidance for token issuers. Additional SEC regulatory activities can be monitored here.
- The CFTC recently updated its guidance on transactions involving digital assets. Further information about the CFTC’s involvement with cryptocurrencies can be found here.
Other agencies within the federal government that have engaged in, or are likely to engage in, the regulation of cryptocurrencies in the future include:
- The Federal Trade Commission (FTC);
- The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN); and
- The Office of the Comptroller of Currency (OCC).
Agencies will generally publish guidance on their websites, but you can also actively track regulatory activity by using the Federal Register. The Law Library of Congress has created a helpful guide on federal regulations that may be useful when researching this topic.
State Law Resources
An excellent resource for state level legislation is available through the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). The NCSL has compiled an annotated guide to state cryptocurrency legislation for the years 2014-2018, and an annotated guide to state blockchain legislation for the years 2015-2019. Although the guides have not been updated in 2020, you may wish to periodically check back for updates. For both pages, click links under “Additional Resources” to access prior years.
You may also wish to perform research on a state-by-state basis. Each state legislature’s website has different features, but basic search terms will work when looking for state legislation on their databases. You can find links to state legislative websites using the Law Library of Congress’s Guide to Law Online.
Congressional Research Service Reports
- Chris Jaikaran, Cong. Research Serv., R45116, Blockchain: Background and Policy Issues (Feb. 28, 2018). This CRS report is a primer on blockchain technology and potential concerns and considerations for regulation and legislation.
- Nicole Vanatko, Cong. Research Serv., LSB10227, CFTC and Virtual Currencies: New Court Rulings and Implication for Congress (Dec. 6, 2018). This CRS report focuses on the interaction between the judicial and legislative branches as laws involving cryptocurrency continue to develop.
- Jay B. Sykes, Cong. Research Serv., R45301, Securities Regulation and Initial Coin Offerings: A Legal Primer (Aug. 31, 2018). This CRS report focuses on ICOs and how an ICO fits into the current securities regulation framework.
Law Review Articles
Stanford University publishes the Journal of Blockchain Law & Policy, which is dedicated to blockchain technology and the law.
Manuscripts and Print Resources
Your local library may have access to online editions of these books, or you may be able to utilize interlibrary loan to borrow them. To find these titles at a nearby library, you can also look for them on WorldCat.
- Primavera De Filippi & Aaron Wright, Blockchain and the Law: The Rule of Code (Harvard Univ. Press, 2018). This book provides general information about blockchain and discusses the implications of cryptocurrency regulation and legislation.
- Shawn Amuial, Josias N. Dewey & Jeff Seul, The Blockchain: A Guide for Legal and Business Professionals (LegalWorks, 2016). This book explains blockchain technology and builds upon the explanation by highlighting examples on how business owners can benefit from investing or implementing these technologies.
- James A. Cox & Mark W. Rasmussen, Blockchain for Business Lawyers (ABA Book Publishing, 2018). This book serves as a primer on blockchain technology from a legal perspective. It highlights the basics of cryptocurrencies and their implications toward businesses, while also discussing in depth different actions taken by federal and state governments and their regulations.
- Blockchain & Cryptocurrency Regulation, 1st (Global Legal Insights, 2019). This treatise discusses blockchain regulation from the international level, with many chapters looking at regulation through the lens of American law.
Please be advised that neither the authors nor the Law Library of Congress specifically endorse any of the following news outlets, but we have chosen to highlight a few freely-available online resources.
- CoinTelegraph.com. This website provides frequent updates on new developments concerning cryptocurrencies. Specifically, this page focuses on regulations in both foreign and domestic jurisdictions.
- CoinDesk.com. This website was one of the first websites to compile cryptocurrency news. This page links to the latest developments in policy and regulation.
You may find you have access to subscription databases through your employer or through your local law library. The Law Library of Congress has public access accounts available in our Reading Room. During the ongoing closure due to COVID-19, we recommend that DC-based researchers look into making an appointment with our temporary On-Site Electronic Resource Center, where most of the Library of Congress’s subscription databases can be accessed, with the exception of Westlaw and Bloomberg Law.
We hope you find these resources helpful in your research, and please feel free to reach out to us via Ask-a-Librarian if you have specific questions about cryptocurrency or blockchain research.