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​Research on legal issues related to the loss of Bitcoin private key



At present, the price of 1 Bitcoin is nearly 60,000 US dollars. More and more investors choose to invest in Bitcoin. Usually, investors hold bitcoins through private keys and mnemonic words. As bitcoins become more and more precious, some criminals steal private keys or mnemonic words to obtain bitcoins in investors' digital currency addresses. There are also some investors who forget their own Bitcoin private keys and mnemonic words, making the Bitcoin in the corresponding digital currency address unusable.

This article studies the related legal issues regarding the loss of Bitcoin private keys and mnemonic words by some investors.

my country's "Notice on Preventing Bitcoin Risks" in mid-2013 clearly defined the nature of Bitcoin as "a specific virtual commodity that does not have the same legal status as currency, and cannot and should not be used as currency in the market." Circulation and use." In addition, Article 127 of my country's "Civil Code" stipulates, "Where the law has provisions on the protection of data and network virtual property, follow its provisions." Therefore, Bitcoin is a virtual property protected by my country's "Civil Code" and other relevant laws.

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The private key/mnemonic is the only certificate of digital assets owned by investors in the blockchain world. Investors rely on private keys or mnemonic words to own digital assets on corresponding addresses. Since the private key/mnemonic of Bitcoin is generally not stored in Internet devices, and the private key and mnemonic are relatively long, some investors forget or lose the private key/mnemonic. The bitcoins whose private key/mnemonic is lost are not unowned, and the author understands that they should be treated as lost property.

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Regarding the bona fide acquisition of lost property, its main provisions are in Article 312 of the Civil Code of our country, "The owner or other obligee has the right to recover the lost property. If the lost property is occupied by others through transfer, the obligee has the right to request The owner of the disposition right requests damages, or requests the transferee to return the original item within two years from the date when he knew or should have known the transferee; If the obligee requests the return of the original property, it shall pay the fee paid by the assignee. After paying the fee to the assignee, the obligee has the right to seek compensation from the holder of the non-disposition right.”

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For the lost bitcoins, after the investor retrieved the private key one day, he found that the bitcoins at the corresponding address had been transferred away. The corresponding digital currency receiving address can be queried through the transaction records. At the same time, seek help from judicial authorities and exchanges, and you may know the true situation of the recipient (transferee) of the corresponding transaction record. However, if the original owner of the bitcoins requests the transferee to return the bitcoins after two years from the date when he knew or should have known the assignee, the bitcoin assignee has the right to refuse to return them. At this time, the bitcoin transferee can acquire it in good faith.

When the private key of the lost Bitcoin is obtained by others, after re-transaction, the original Bitcoin owner has two main ways to protect their legitimate rights and interests. the

(1) Claim compensation for losses from the person without the right to dispose

This approach is more difficult in practice. Under normal circumstances, after the unauthorized person obtains the private key/mnemonic of Bitcoin, it is generally difficult to inquire about the actual information of the unauthorized person. The investigative agency's investigation technology for digital currency cybercrime is not perfect, and the unauthorized person often It will take mixed currency or transfer between different exchanges, resulting in the inability to accurately lock the real information of the person who has no right to dispose of it. However, if you are lucky enough to lock the person without the right to dispose, the original owner of Bitcoin can request compensation for losses from the person without the right to dispose of it.

(2) Request the assignee to return the original

As mentioned above, if the original owner of the bitcoin retrieves the private key, it is found that the bitcoin at the corresponding address has been transferred. The author believes that at this time, it is possible to file a lawsuit for the return of the original to the court on the grounds of "dispute over the return of lost items", and request the transferee to return the lost bitcoin in a timely manner. If the transferee purchases the lost bitcoins from an exchange with a license, the owner should pay the transferee the fee when requesting the return of the bitcoins, and then seek compensation from the person without disposition right. The person without the right to dispose and the transferee here need the corresponding assistance of the investigation agency and the exchange, and may find out the real situation of the corresponding user.


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