Assuming owning mean individual custody of valuable asset, does owning cryptocurrency mean owning the tokens/coins? Does it mean owning a private key and owning a record in the "public ledger" and owning the software code associated with the particular cryptocurrency?

  • 2
    Owning bitcoin would mean possessing the private key needed to unlock a UTXO on the public ledger
    – Prince M
    Mar 26, 2021 at 4:16

2 Answers 2


Ownership is a difficult concept and, in some contexts, irrelevant.

The answer you get from a lawyer or tax-adviser may differ from the one you get from a software developer.

Knowledge of a number gives you the power to spend money denominated in Bitcoin. Anyone else who knows that number has the same power. The Bitcoin network doesn't care who knew it first. It doesn't adjudicate ownership between multiple people who know a number.

I'm not sure you can own a number. If I know 12 do I own the number 12? Does that mean other people can't legally use 12 without my permission?. If I know that 12 is the number that opens a combination lock to a safe in my office is that a different sort of knowledge that confers ownership of 12 in some context? Does it confer ownership of the contents of the safe? Or is the legal ownership of the contents of the safe determined completely independently of knowledge of the combination? These are legal and philosophical questions. I think it may be best to avoid worrying about ownership and concentrate on keeping private keys secure.

  • Is there any the software code that is unique to and accompanying the Bitcoin token and when I take out Bitcoin token from exchange, will some software code come into my wallet together with private key?
    – user117743
    Mar 27, 2021 at 0:28
  • @user35843905830509118 There are no Bitcoin tokens. There is a public transaction record that contains transaction outputs. Bitcoin programs ("nodes" in the Bitcoin network) keep track of which ones are "unspent". Full nodes make a complete copy of the list of all transactions since the start of Bitcoin. The only thing a wallet needs is the number known as a private key. Nothing else. If you transfer only that number into a new wallet, that new wallet will find out all the money you can spend. Mar 27, 2021 at 9:19
  • Why do everyone talk about crypto in the way that sounds like every crypto has a token?Is this also how ethereum works?
    – user117743
    Mar 27, 2021 at 11:33

Owning bitcoin(BTC) = Own private key required to spend one or more Bitcoin UTXO

Not sure about other cryptocurrencies.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.