One of the great features of bitcoin is that, by using a private key to sign a transaction, you do not need to trust an intermediary to transfer value to any address on the network. However, you don’t need to hold the private keys to own the bitcoin. Surrendering possession of a thing does not inherently mean relinquishing ownership of it.

My favorite way to think about this is to look at what happens when I take my car to have its oil changed. Each time I do this, I hand the keys over to the mechanic and leave my car parked on the mechanic’s property (let’s name my mechanic “Marty”). Until I decide to return and pay for the oil change, Marty holds possession of both my car and its keys. …

As with all good, passionate, (and maybe cheesy) love stories, mine begins with a breakup.

I’m not usually one to make New Year’s resolutions, but on the verge of 2014 I determined I’d breakup with Washington DC and the life it contained for me by the time my lease ended: June. I don’t entirely know why I gave my DC life a six-month expiration date, but I do know I had talked about leaving for five of the six years I lived there. It was time.

If every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end, I should back up to why I went to DC in the first place. Many people start law school with dreams of changing the Constitution or fighting crime, but not me. My aspirations to join the world of barristers stemmed from a passion for economics and making entrepreneurship easier for the underdog. I wanted to see a world where startups, family businesses, and the people overseas who make my coffee or my clothes experience sustainable success from their efforts. Instead I observed a legal and regulatory landscape that created complicated and expensive barriers to success, so I embarked on a DC law school adventure, intending to change what I observed into what I wanted to see. Then the economy tanked during my first year of law school, producing a shortage of work for almost all industries except financial services. So I did the economically rational thing and spent a few years litigating on behalf of financial institutions. …

Image for post
Image for post

Sometimes the English language is silly. We use the same word to describe two different things. So, what is BITCOIN, you ask? Confusingly, uppercase-B “Bitcoin” and lowercase-b “bitcoin” mean two different things. Here’s how I think about them:

Bitcoin = a technological protocol, which I think of as globally-viewable spreadsheet, or the internet for money.

bitcoin = the first application built on the protocol, which I think of as digital cash, or email for money.

Bitcoin is like a globally-viewable spreadsheet. Imagine that my value is tracked in spreadsheet column A, and my mom’s value is tracked in spreadsheet column B. Now suppose that I have a total of $10 in column A, and I want to send my mom money to contribute to dad’s birthday dinner, so I authorize a transaction for $10 from column A to column B. …


Sarah Hody

Attorney @PerkinsCoieLLP, formerly @Coinbase. Opinions my own. Content != legal advice. Enthusiast of: blockchains, running, sustainability, music, wine, love.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store