ICLE Affiliate Thibault Schrepel in Politico on the Antitrust Implications of Blockchain

ICLE Affiliate Thibault Schrepel published a piece on how blockchain technology could alter our conception of competitive behavior in the future:

PARIS — Not a day goes by without some discussion of Bitcoin — and, by extension, blockchain. Soon, not a day will pass without blockchain being discussed in competition law circles, too.

The 2010s are to blockchain what the 1990s were to the internet — a transformative technology. It is still difficult to identify all the issues that will arise, because major applications of this technology are still under development. But we already know that competition analysis will be turned upside down.

Spotting the issues created by blockchain requires an understanding of the technology itself. To put it simply, blockchain is an open and distributed digital ledger that can record all sorts of transactions between users. These ledgers are (in principle) immutable. That’s why it’s sometimes said that,“Unlike Pinocchio, the blockchain doesn’t lie.”

In a public blockchain, each participant has access to the complete ledger. No single participant controls the information or the data, and so no one is “in charge” of it.

Things are different on private blockchains, in which access and use could be limited and changed anytime by the party in charge.

Whether public or private, most offer capabilities for software to run on top of them, making the distinction between blockchain (as platforms) and software/application (as concrete use) absolutely essential in the context of competition law.

These features raise three technical issues: how to detect anti-competitive practices committed using blockchain, how to identify the author of those practices, and how to put in place remedies once anti-competitive behavior is established. If regulators do not pay particular attention to these issues, they will become powerless to act when blockchain technology is used to violate competition

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