Cryptocommunity Currencies

50 Pages Posted: 11 Jan 2019 Last revised: 24 Aug 2020

See all articles by J.S. Nelson

J.S. Nelson

Harvard Law School; Harvard Business School; Villanova Law School (on leave 2021-23); Villanova School of Business; Institute for Corruption Studies

Date Written: December 31, 2018


What are cryptocurrencies: securities, commodities, or something else? Maybe they are a new form of established currency ― a non-sovereign fiat currency. Like other self-governing bodies, the communities that issue cryptocurrencies should be judged on how well they support their currencies. This analysis is not meaningfully different from how we have evaluated traditional sovereign issuers of currency. Indeed, as traditional-sovereign-issued currency becomes entirely digital, functional distinctions between traditionally sovereign-backed fiat currency and widely-accepted non-sovereign fiat currency start to disappear. The primary way then to distinguish the value of such currencies from each other becomes the quality of their institutional backing. Through that lens, some self-governing online communities are better-organized and more supportive of their currencies than traditional sovereigns.

By shooting across the bow of the securities-versus-commodities debate, this Article calls on regulators and academics to rethink their assumptions about cryptocurrencies and the communities that develop them. We should recognize well-institutionalized cryptocommunity currencies as non-sovereign fiat currencies and regulate them accordingly.

Keywords: cryptocurrency, cryptocurrencies, securities, commodities, currencies, regulation, sovereign, community

JEL Classification: K1, K11, K2, K20, K22, K23, K29, K33, K42, G00, G20, G21, G23, G28, G29, G38, G39, Z1, Z10, Z18, Z19

Suggested Citation

Nelson, J.S. (Josephine Sandler), Cryptocommunity Currencies (December 31, 2018). J.S. Nelson, Cryptocommunity Currencies, 105 Cornell L. Rev. 909 (2020)., Available at SSRN: or

J.S. (Josephine Sandler) Nelson (Contact Author)

Harvard Law School ( email )

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Cambridge, MA 02138
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Harvard Business School ( email )

Boston, MA 02163
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Villanova Law School (on leave 2021-23) ( email )

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United States

Villanova School of Business ( email )

800 Lancaster Avenue
Villanova, PA 19085-1678
United States

Institute for Corruption Studies

Stevenson Hall 425
Normal, IL 61790-4200
United States

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