The legal ruling is in: Bitcoin is real money.
Ruling in a case heard in the U.S. Eastern District Court in Texas, Judge Amos L. Mazzant emphatically ruled that the Bitcoin virtual currency is in fact real money.
Wrote Mazzant: “It is clear that Bitcoin can be used as money. It can be used to purchase goods or services, and ... used to pay for individual living expenses. The only limitation of Bitcoin is that it is limited to those places that accept it as currency. However, it can also be exchanged for conventional currencies, such as the U.S. dollar, Euro, Yen and Yuan. Therefore, Bitcoin is a currency or form of money,”
The case in which the question came up involves an SEC action against an individual alleged to have operated a Ponzi scheme in which Bitcoin was the medium. The alleged perpetrator, Trendon Shavers doing business as Bitcoin Savings and Trust (BTCST), is said to have taken in roughly $4.5 million in Bitcoin, paid in by investors who were promised a 7% weekly return.
Roughly $1.8 million apparently was lost by the Bitcoin investors.
When the SEC moved against Shavers and BTCST, the defendant countered that Bitcoin is not money. Noted the judge: “Shavers argues that the BTCST investments are not securities because Bitcoin is not money, and is not part of anything regulated by the United States. Shavers also contends that his transactions were all Bitcoin transactions and that no money ever exchanged.”
Therefore, claimed the defendant, the SEC case necessarily collapses.
The judge, in his ruling, saw matters differently, saying that Bitcoin is money and the SEC case can proceed.
Kim Forrest, senior equity analyst at Fort Pitt Capital Group in Pennsylvania and a Bitcoin expert. said in an interview that “if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it’s a duck. That is what the judge is saying. His ruling is the essence of practicality.”
Barrie VanBrackle, a virtual currency expert and a partner in the law firm Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, wrote in an email: "It is not surprising that Judge Mazzant defined Bitcoin as ‘a currency or form of money’ given the recent guidance issued by the Department of Treasury which would consider an administrator or exchanger of a virtual currency to be a money services business (and noted that the definition of a money transmitter does not differentiate between real currencies and virtual currencies).
“Further, the California Department of Financial Institutions recently issued a cease and desist order to Bitcoin Foundation, stating that it is required to register as a ‘money’ transmitter – again, without any distinguishing between ‘real and virtual’ currencies (and without addressing whether the Foundation itself is involved in the transmission of any currency- real or virtual."
Bottom line: Bitcoin definitely is real money. At least for now.