Comment   |   Volume 167, Issue 1

Prosecuting Cryptocurrency Theft with the Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016

By
167 U. Pa. L. Rev. 239 (2018)

December 2018












This Comment intends to advance a novel law for prosecuting the theft of cryptocurrency—the Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016 (the DTSA or the Act). The DTSA is a powerful legal tool for combatting this difficult‐to‐define crime. Beyond the conceptual applicability of trade secret law, the confidentiality, extraterritoriality, and other uniquely tailored features of the Act make it practically useful. This Comment suggests this nonexclusive tool for prosecuting cryptocurrency theft and will not explore the many other ways that cryptocurrency may be regulated.

After explaining the technology of cryptocurrency, I will describe the growing threat posed by cryptotheft. I will briefly survey the legal tools currently used to deal with the theft of cryptocurrency. I will next propose that the DTSA should be used to prosecute, both civilly and criminally, the theft of blockchain‐based currency. The DTSA includes a host of valuable features that make it particularly attractive and effective for both the government and individuals prosecuting cryptotheft. I will briefly compare the Act to other possible schemes for prosecuting cryptotheft. Finally, I will conclude by noting the challenge of applying American law to foreign actors and the technical difficulty associated with tracking and retrieving digital coins.

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