Of Bitcoins, Independently Wealthy Software, and the Zero-Member LLC

14 Pages Posted: 11 Dec 2013 Last revised: 4 Apr 2016

See all articles by Shawn Bayern

Shawn Bayern

Florida State University - College of Law

Date Written: December 10, 2013


This essay introduces to the legal community a fascinating, decreasingly farfetched technological possibility that the Bitcoin software promotes, and it offers suggestions for the how the law might interact with that possibility. In short, the Bitcoin technology allows autonomously operating software — such as a computer virus or the software that manages a network of vending machines — to exercise control over significant wealth, not as an intermediary for individuals or companies but rather, in a functionally meaningful sense, in its own right.

The first part of this essay briefly describes the Bitcoin software technology for a legal audience. Part II explains how Bitcoin promotes the possibility of independently wealthy software. Part III considers several legal approaches to that possibility. The legal analysis is exploratory, and it is just a first step; it is too early to offer definite normative opinions. But it will likely be important for legal "technologies," such as organizational forms, concepts of legal entities and legal personality, and institutional systems of contract and tort law to keep pace with technological innovation.

Keywords: bitcoin, llc, autonomous, software, cryptography, limited liability company, organization, legal personality, cryptocurrency

Suggested Citation

Bayern, Shawn J., Of Bitcoins, Independently Wealthy Software, and the Zero-Member LLC (December 10, 2013). 108 Nw. U.L. Rev. 1485 (2014); 108 Nw. U. L. Rev. Online 257 (2014), FSU College of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 675, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2366197 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2366197

Shawn J. Bayern (Contact Author)

Florida State University - College of Law ( email )

425 W. Jefferson Street
Tallahassee, FL 32306
United States

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