On 17-18 September 2020, UNIDROIT hosted a hybrid exploratory workshop on Digital Assets and Private Law at its seat in Rome and via Zoom.
The two-day event was attended by over 75 participants and featured opening remarks by the Secretary-General of UNIDROIT, Professor Ignacio Tirado, followed by four sessions exploring different issues of private law within the digital assets sphere.
Session 1 focused on ‘Digital Assets: A Legal Taxonomy and Challenges to Private Law’. This session considered some of the more fundamental challenges regarding the application of private law concepts to digital assets, including the application of property law concepts to digital assets, the difficulties in developing a legal taxonomy of digital assets and the challenges in mapping private law concepts onto assets based on a new, and ever-developing, technology. The session was chaired by Professor Louise Gullifer (University of Cambridge) and featured presentations by Jason Grant Allen (Humboldt University), Tetsuo Morishita (Sophia University), and David Fox (University of Edinburgh).
Session 2 considered ‘Legal Issues in the Use of Digital Assets as Collateral: Existing and Emerging International Standards’. This session discussed various legal issues surrounding the use of digital assets as collateral for loans. It provided illustrations of the typical transactions and then examined how the existing and emerging international standards, including the UNCITRAL Model Law on Secured Transactions and the ALI-ELI Principles for a Data Economy, addressed legal issues that arise in secured transactions. The session also identified the aspects of secured transactions that the current UNIDROIT project on digital assets would explore in coordination with these standards. This session was chaired by Dr. Marek Dubovec (Kozolchyk National Law Center) and featured presentations by Andrew Hinkes (Carlton Fields), Steve Weise (Proskauer Rose LLP), and Teresa Rodríguez de las Heras Ballell (Universidad Carlos III de Madrid).
On day 2. Session 3 examined ‘Digital Assets Linked to Real-World Assets (Digital Twins): Civil Law and Private International Law Implications’. This session focused on exploring the issues of digital twins which represented a real-world asset and typically faced problems of how to prevent the digital twin from separating from the real-world asset which it represented. The speakers explained how their respective jurisdictions dealt with these issues. Additionally, all speakers also shared their practical experiences with the multi-jurisdiction issues faced by many, if not all, digital asset projects, realising that in most cases more than one jurisdiction was claiming to be applicable to their digital asset. This session was chaired by Dr. Nina-Luisa Siedler (DWF Germany) and featured presentations by Thomas Nägele (NÄGELE Attorneys), Joshua Klayman (Linklaters), and Urszula McCormack (King & Wood Mallesons).
Session 4 looked at ‘Intermediated Digital Assets: Custody Issues’. This session addressed the settings in which an acquirer of digital assets chooses to hold the assets through a custodian and compared “direct” holding with various structures for custodial holding. It explored the practical and legal aspects of custodial holding from the perspectives of an acquirer and a custodian, including issues of private law and insolvency law. This session was chaired by Professor Charles Mooney, Jr. (University of Pennsylvania) and featured presentations by Carla L. Reyes (Southern Methodist University), Matthias Haentjens (University of Leiden), and Stephen A. Keen, Esq. (Perkins Coie LLP).
A concluding session was also held which was chaired by Professor Hideki Kanda (Gakushuin University, UNIDROIT Governing Council Member) and featured summary reports of the discussions presented by the chairs of the previous sessions.