Bulletins

Jack Dorsey wants to help bitcoin developers fight legal battles

The Bitcoin Legal Defense Fund comes with growing concern that emerging business disputes and new regulations could target software programmers.

Block CEO Jack Dorsey

Block CEO Jack Dorsey is spearheading the creation of a nonprofit that plans to defend bitcoin developers against lawsuits.

Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Block CEO Jack Dorsey is spearheading the creation of a group that would help defend bitcoin developers against lawsuits and other legal challenges.


The Bitcoin Legal Defense Fund, a nonprofit organization, “aims to minimize legal headaches that discourage software developers from actively developing bitcoin,” Dorsey said in an open letter to bitcoin developers.

It was also signed by Chaincode Labs co-founder Alex Morcos and Martin White, the head of litigation at Block.

The initial announcement didn't make White's professional affiliation clear, and some reports misidentified him as a University of Sussex academic who has done some research into blockchain technology. When asked by Protocol, the professor denied any connection with the project.

“The main purpose of this Fund is to defend developers from lawsuits regarding their activities in the bitcoin ecosystem, including finding and retaining defense counsel, developing litigation strategy, and paying legal bills,” Dorsey, Morcos and White said in the letter.

The fund, which will offer its services for free, will form a “corps of volunteer and part-time lawyers,” the letter said.

The defense fund appears to be in its earliest stages. No filings appear in the California Secretary of State's business database or Guidestar's index of nonprofits. The bitcoindefensefund.org domain mentioned in the email is currently parked. Dorsey, who details donations made through his Start Small vehicle in a Google Sheet posted online, has not detailed any contribution to an entity related to the proposed fund.

Among the first cases it will focus on the so-called Tulip Trading lawsuit in which a group of developers have been sued in connection with bitcoin losses related to the defunct Mt. Gox exchange.

Crypto executives and lobbyists have expressed concern about recent changes to U.S. tax laws that would create financial reporting requirements for blockchain software developers, though no known cases have emerged from those laws and the Treasury Department has said the IRS would not target software creators.

Update Jan. 13, 2022: Added a denial by University of Sussex Professor Martin White of involvement in the defense fund and a confirmation by Block's Martin White of his role.

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