The bitcoin stress tests planned by CoinWallet could breach UK law, a legal professional has suggested.
The claim was first posted on Reddit yesterday, with user ‘btcdrak’ asserting: “The Computer Misuse Act 1990 in the United Kingdom makes it an offence to deliberately cause disruption to computer systems with intent.”
Eitan Jankelewitz, associate at UK law firm Sheridans, said he would tend to agree with this assessment.
The aim of these stress tests is to verify whether the bitcoin network is capable of handling a large stream of very small transactions. CoinWallet’s first test in June aimed to fill blocks with 105 BTC worth of miniscule transactions, but reached just 15% of its 200MB goal before its servers crashed.
“I’m inclined to say there is a good argument that the CoinWallet stress tests would be a breach of section 3 of the CMA 1990,” Jankelewitz said.
“The intention of CoinWallet in conducting the tests may well be to demonstrate the network’s capacity, but they should not be reckless as to the consequences of that test (section 3(3)),” the lawyer explained.
Some Reddit users claim the tests are ‘authorised’ on the basis that they involve the sending of transactions, which is the primary purpose of the bitcoin network.
“However,” said Jankelewitz, “The courts have previously said there is a limit to the amount of ‘authorised acts’ that are acceptable before the acts become unauthorised.”
He illustrated his point using Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks as an analogy, explaining that these attacks typically involve permitted acts, but the affected service provider does not authorise those acts to be carried out so many times that their service becomes overloaded.
When asked what he thinks of accusations that his company is planning to hold a live network – and potentially billions of dollars – hostage, James Wilson, COO at CoinWallet said: “This is an absurd accusation. And if we were able to hold billions of dollars hostage, then it is pretty good evidence that bitcoin is worthless.”
CoinWallet is planning to carry out the next test at 10:00 (GMT) on Thursday 10th September.
UK law image via Shutterstock