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Can ‘Hijacking’ a Single Cryptocurrency Network Violate Antitrust Laws?

 |  February 26, 2020

Ivory L. Bishop, Jr.; Antitrust Advocate

On Jan. 28, a federal judge in Florida dismissed without prejudice
the nation’s first antitrust suit involving cryptocurrency. The plaintiff,
United American Corporation Inc., (UAC), alleged that five entities and six
individuals conspired to hijack and centralize the Bitcoin Cash network by
combining their efforts during a crucial software upgrade vote, causing the
diminution in value of UAC’s cryptocurrency mining operation. The court’s
decision to permit UAC to amend its complaint leaves open the potential
applicability of antitrust laws in this already legally opaque industry.

Cash and Blockchain

Bitcoin Cash is a form of
cryptocurrency. Cryptocurrencies are peer-to-peer versions of electronic cash.
Since there is no central financial intermediary, a decentralized “blockchain”
network of ledgers verifies and records the currency’s transactions. Blockchain
networks depend upon cryptocurrency “miners” to verify and record new
transactions. Miners compete by solving complex mathematical equations and are
compensated for their efforts with newly minted currency. UAC and the
defendants are participants in the community of software developers, miners and
exchanges that supports Bitcoin Cash.

of the Case

In 2018, Bitcoin Cash was preparing for a software upgrade, which led to what is known in the industry as a “fork.” Forks allow individual miners to “vote” on the proposed changes in the rules governing aspects of the operation of the blockchain. Miners vote by implementing the relevant upgrade of their choice and then using that upgrade to “mine” the currency – voting by doing, as it were. Disagreements among miners can lead to “hard forks,” where a single currency and corresponding blockchain split into new currencies and new corresponding blockchains governed by their own respective rules…

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