Poland: Bitcoin Is Not So Black As It Is Painted…

Last Updated: 5 September 2017
Article by Konrad Zacharzewski

Digital currency has been arousing a lot of interest for some time. In public administration circles - at least officially – so far, it has not been discussed very much. A few days ago though, the situation has changed. The National Bank of Poland together with The Polish Financial Supervision Authority (KNF) took a precedent position on the digital currency.

With one voice

A few days ago, the common view of the NPB and the KNF on digital currency was revealed. The document was prepared objectively. The "Announcement" clause is, in principle, a warning of risks, as evidenced by its preamble. It also refers in content to my pioneering publications devoted to bitcoin in Polish law, published almost three years ago. This is pleasant for me. And because of some knowledge of digital currency and the commitment to work on the regulatory taming of this phenomenon in the Polish legal realm, I am allowing myself to make a few comments.

Attention worthy is the whole "Announcement". This is the first official position on the digital currency, and in addition - which should be emphasized - edited jointly by the central bank and the central body of public administration. It can certainly influence the direction of legislative processes and the practice of economic life. It was, however, needlessly edited in a rather conservative tone, paying homage to an out-of-date terminology. We are dealing with digital currencies, and not, as they were called, with virtual "currencies". Such terminology (digital currencies) is now considered to be accepted and dominant. Virtuality does not associate well in this context. Digital currencies really exist.

It is really a warning?

As you read the content of the position, a conviction forms that the basic tone of the "Announcement from the National Bank of Poland and the Polish Financial Supervision Authority" on virtual "currencies" includes primarily descriptive and educational content. It may thus contribute to clarifying their legal nature and spectra of economic applications. It not so much warns about digital currencies but explains their main characteristics. These include, among others, decentralization of issuance and lack of legal status of redemption of obligations (private and public). Digital currency is not universally accepted by creditors nor is it an electronic money or a financial instrument.

That's all true. True is also the repeatedly expressed concern by the ECB and the EBA over digital currencies, and the fact that digital currency trading in Poland does not violate national or EU law, and that a fraudulent incident has occurred in one of the Polish bitcoin stock exchanges. It also does not hurt the realm of facts to present examples of risks associated with owning digital currency. It is true that the digital currency is, in certain circumstances, susceptible to computer anomalies (hacking interference, for example), and the person who owns it can be deceived in various ways. At present, the performance (rates) of digital currencies relative to the dominant world currencies are also characterized by significant volatility. It is also true that some forms of investing in digital currency offered may have the character of the so-called financial pyramid. In the latter case, the NPB and the KNF expressed themselves with a reasonable restraint, as the feature described can only be highlighted in some cases (in trace practices).

Through the lawyer's eye

When referring to the "Announcement" essentials, one has to pay attention to a few inaccuracies and to become aware of a few forward-looking themes. The definition of digital currency, as referred to in the "Announcement", is burdened with economic considerations. To a conservatively educated lawyer, the clarification of the phrase "virtual currencies are a digital representation of value" comes with great ease. The point here is that digital currency can be an asset. It is, therefore, a category which falls within the framework of the basic concepts of private law. A unit of a digital currency (e.g. bitcoin, litecoin, ethereum) has a legal status of property (art. 44 of the civil code). It can therefore be an asset. Therefore, it can be the subject of a disposal, that is to go from the seller to the buyer. It can be an element of inheritance, that is, go to successors. It can also be a non-cash contribution, that is, entering into the assets of a legal person. I have already mentioned all of this in scientific publications.

A unit of digital currency may also be "recognized by natural and legal persons as a means of payment". There is nothing disturbing about this. This feature of digital currency (as well as props such as collectables, amber, gold, etc.) is part of the content of art. 35811 § 2 of the civil code, if "the parties may stipulate in the contract that the amount of cash benefit shall be determined by other measure of value than money". In the context of private law, digital currency is a different measure of value than money. This is the core of its legal substance (design). As such, it can be used to redeem obligations between private legal persons.

This is not a defect, but a feature. Therefore, digital currency trading is legal. Most of the functions of digital currency derive from this code attribute (feature). Commonly, a unit of digital currency is money, since it can redeem obligations. However, it should be stressed that this is a function, not a public-law status, which interferes with the central conditions of the issue of money by the central bank. Digital currency in no way lies on the antipodes of the assumptions of the system of money creation formulated in the Constitution of the Republic of Poland.

It is, however, a means of redeeming obligations. In the same way fidget spinners, recently the most popular items of lust in certain circles, also have the status of money, since in exchange for a fidget spinner, one can get a collection of pokemon stickers. The fulfillment of such equivalent benefits also leads - as indicated by the results of the basic legal reasoning - to the redemption of obligation resulting from the exchange agreement (art. 603 of the civil code). Not only the payment by money may result in the redemption of obligation. This is the elementary message, known to the students of the university lecture on contract law. Digital currency is not money. That is certain. However, they perform the function of money, just as measures of value other than money. This is also certain.

What's before us?

The joint "Announcement" of the NPB and the KNF does not deserve a unilateral orthodox condemnation, although its leading tone due to the programmed warning character is slightly ominous. Beyond doubt, however, through its strong official voice, it enters the mainstream discussion on the location of digital currency in Polish law and in the Polish economic reality. That is why it is important to convey that the "Announcement" raises an incredibly significant issue in its final words. It mentions DLT (distributed ledger technology). It does it well. By omitting the warning precautionary plot in the "Announcement", this is certainly the most important element of the content of the commented submission.

It is true that the digital currency arouses some anxiety in the unacquainted people. The reasons are various, generally associated with the phenomenon of hiding pre-tax income. In the meantime, in practice, the most untaxed income is laundered with legal money. At present money laundering through digital currency, a prominent phenomenon due to its media attractiveness, is marginal. That is why, the positive inclusion of the most important issue, namely the DLT, included in the "Announcement", should be praised.

One has to agree with the thesis described in the "Announcement" that "distributed ledger technology can have a range of other uses, such as in the electronic databases, industry, services, or the financial sector. Many of the functional, operational and legal aspects of this technology should, however, be subject to a thorough and detailed analysis and testing, prior to its mass market introduction". From the perspective of future considerations this is the most significant part of the commented "Announcement". The importance of the distributed ledger technology can be overestimated and diminished only by those who do not know what is really going on.

Basic knowledge

Therefore, it will be sensible on this occasion to refer to the fruit of the works conducted under the protectorate of the Ministry of Digital Affairs of Poland under the program "From paper to digital Poland". A group of scientists and practitioners works pro bono under this program. I have participated in the "Blockchain Stream/DLT and Digital Currency" work from the beginning as a leader of the involved lawyers. We performed a number of documentary studies that are currently the most important resource for reliable knowledge of digital currency and DLT technology in Poland. All materials are easily available on the Internet.

This legacy primarily includes the "Overview of Polish law in the context of applications of distributed ledgers technologies and digital currency" from October 2016 (announced in January 2017 version), "Blockchain technology and cryptocurrency term lexicon" from October 2012 and "The canon of good practices of cryptocurrency market entities in Poland" from January 2017. I refer the persons interested in the essence of things to those documents. I think that these few papers constitute a starting point for forming an opinion on the officially mentioned subject in the joint "Announcement" of the NPB and the KNF.

Should we be afraid?

It is not my role to convince anyone to specific solutions because I have to admit that from the perspective of an academic-lawyer and a practitioner–lawyer, I have no influence on the direction of legislative activity and the practice of exercising public authority by public administration bodies. As a scientist I explain, and as a lawyer I solve problems. That is why, I strongly encourage all those concerned to diligently deepen their knowledge of digital currency and distributed ledger technology.

Bitcoin is not so black as it is painted... And that is why, a bit of a personal thread at the end. I have set up my first email account in 1996. In order to obtain it, I directed an application to the Head of the University's Information Technology Center, previously approved by the Dean of the Faculty of Law and Administration of my home University. Recognition of the application took two weeks. I have received a letter of approval about one month after the application has been accepted by registered mail, including the approval of the address and the login and password. And I could use the email. This is hard to believe today - email used to to cause concern...

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:
  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.
  • Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.
    If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here
    If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here

    Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

    Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

    Use of www.mondaq.com

    You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


    Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

    The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


    Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

    • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
    • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
    • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

    Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

    Information Collection and Use

    We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

    We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

    Mondaq News Alerts

    In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


    A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

    Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

    Log Files

    We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


    This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

    Surveys & Contests

    From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


    If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


    From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

    *** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


    This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

    Correcting/Updating Personal Information

    If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

    Notification of Changes

    If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

    How to contact Mondaq

    You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

    If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.

    By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions