Focus Areas:    Antitrust | Competition

How blockchain will upend competition law

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.

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