Sign this letter to tell NY DFS that the BitLicense needs a safe harbor

Small companies and individual technologists need space to innovate without having to ask for permission or obtain a license.

It has become an oft-repeated adage that Bitcoin in 2015 is akin to the internet in 1995. And if there was one aspect of law and policy that was crucial to the growth of the internet, it was the development of safe harbors. Safe harbors enable companies and technologists to innovate without having to ask for permission or obtain a license, and can compel good behavior through legal requirements. Nearly every site on the internet relies on safe harbors such as DMCA 512 and CDA 230 today, and we’re extremely lucky that things turned out the way they did.

With the evolution of Bitcoin and blockchain technology, we have another chance to get it right. And to that end, I’ve been working with Aaron Wright to come up with a safe harbor regime for digital currency technology that is flexible enough to allow for future and unanticipated uses, while also addressing key public policy concerns. This week we’ve released a letter outlining a proposal for the community to sign on to, and have already garnered support from companies such as CoinbaseBlockstream, and ChangeTip, along with tech policy groups like COPIA and X-Lab.

It’s unreasonable for regulators to expect small entrepreneurs, creators of open source protocols, security intermediaries, and micropayment applications to adhere to similar licensing requirements as large financial institutions. With the addition of a proposed safe harbor to regulations like New York’s BitLicense, we can help enable permissionless innovation in at least four crucial areas: (1) Small startups in their first two years, or a startup onramp (2) Micropayment platforms (3) Security intermediaries such as multisig providers and (4) Creators of new protocols and currencies.

In order to be eligible for the safe harbor, entities would have to disclose consumer protection policies, follow security best practices, and, if applicable, register with FinCEN and comply with relevant AML laws.

We consider this proposal a starting point in a much bigger conversation as to how to enable the enormous potential benefits to society that digital currencies stand to offer. If we’re going to make bitcoin the next internet, we need to draw important lessons from the internet’s past. This moves us one step forward in that direction.

Sign the letter and stand up for the future of Bitcoin and digital currency technology. Because without it, we may never see today’s vision come to fruition.

Based in Washington, D.C., Coin Center is the leading non-profit research and advocacy center focused on the public policy issues facing cryptocurrency and decentralized computing technologies like Bitcoin and Ethereum. Our mission is to build a better understanding of these technologies and to promote a regulatory climate that preserves the freedom to innovate using permisionless blockchain technologies.