So, it's really digital gold !
On February 26, 2020, a curious question brought before the Commercial Court of Nanterre, lead to an answer even more surprising than the query itself!
The case pits Paymium, one of the French pioneers offering cryptoasset investments, and BitSpread, its counterpart across the Channel. It is a loan of 1000 bitcoins (BTC) made by the first to the second in 2014. As if this loan of an unknown legal nature would not alone have given enough trouble, a hard fork completes the picture by adding other question marks. This word defines a process specific to the world of crypto. A hardfork is the act of copying the code of an existing protocol, making modifications to the copied code. This creates a fork in the main chain and new units (tokens) distinct from the first. In this case, in August 2017, the Bitcoin protocol was forked, giving rise to bitcoin cash (BCH). The hard fork process requires that each person having bitcoins at the time of the fork receives an equivalent number of new units created. Their value will oscillate according to mining difficulty (the production of units) and the supply and demand. So on the day of judgment, the stake was 312,000 euros! The question to which the Commercial Court seized had to answer is to know whose are the 1000 BCH corresponding to the 1000 BTC loaned? The Court sought to compare the characteristics of the disputed loan transaction with those of a typical consumer loan transaction to be able to draw the most coherent solution within the applicable law. Article 1892 of the French Civil Code defines the consumer loan as: "a contract by which one of the parties delivers to the other a certain quantity of things which are consumed through use." Like the money spent on purchasing goods and services, bitcoin is spent when it is used as a means of payment as much as when it is converted into other numerical values. "The obligations of a sum of money are fungible, even in different currencies, if they are convertible," tells article 1347-1 of the same code. As the convertibility of bitcoins is not in doubt, the judges rightly considered bitcoins as "fungible assets" such as gold, wine, or petroleum. As a result, the Court deduced that, as BTC is "spendable through its use," the loan of bitcoin is comparable to a consumer loan. This operation involves the transfer of ownership of the loaned property to the borrower during the term of the loan, within the meaning of article 1893 c.civ. The borrower assumes the risks and benefits from the fruits as the owner of the things loaned up to the stipulated term. According to article 1902, he is only bound to "return the things loaned, in the same quantity and quality," in addition to interests on the loan stipulated in the contract. The Tribunal, therefore, rightly dismissed Paymium's claims relating to the return of the 1000 BCH, the fruits of the BTC loaned. "When you lend bitcoin or when you borrow it, it is a consumer loan which obliges you to return the same quality and quantity, and therefore makes the borrower bear the risks or benefit from the fruits. This also applies to bitcoin cash, ethereum, or other cryptocurrencies. " - David Roche This remarkable decision proves the adaptability of French positive law, which, while remaining equal to itself, moves to embrace the forms of new models. This decision should greatly facilitate the apprehension of crypto assets in everyday economic life. Now, operators offering innovative financial services or professionals assisting them in their legal, accounting, and tax obligations, have a clear definition and a practical legal regime to govern these operations.