Although cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin are often likened to the Old Wild West, that does not mean there are not any laws governing them. While many issues surrounding the decade-old digital asset remain unclear or unregulated, there are some practices that can get the average retail investor in trouble. For example, federal policies adopted in 2017 impact taxes on cryptocurrency and participation in initial coin offerings. More regulations are likely — and that could be a good or bad thing, depending on whom you ask. This plain-language primer provides an overview of the most common legal issues that investors need to be aware of and what the future may hold.

There is a scene in the movie Marley & Me where the main character, John, takes his dog, Marley, to a beach. The beach had a strict leash policy, prohibiting owners from letting their dogs run free on the sand and in the ocean. Earlier in the movie, despite Marley’s less-subtle attempt to use puppy eyes to guilt John, John resists taking Marley off the leash, fearing the glares he might get from his fellow beachgoers if Marley misbehaved. However, John, now years older and much wiser (or so the audience is led to believe), lets Marley off his leash. For about a minute, the audience sees shots of Marley running on the beach and splashing in the water, quashing any fears John may have had. But naturally, only seconds later, Marley runs in the shallow water and begins to relieve himself, to the disgust of everyone else on the shore.

Most lakefront property owners in Indiana know a “Marley” of their own. Although many lakefront property owners are happy to allow neighbors to pass along their shoreline and enjoy some of Indiana’s greatest natural resources, when dogs leave “gifts” on their shore or neighbors overstay their welcome, these property owners begin to contemplate what rights they have to exclude access to their shore. While some use scowls and verbal pleas to resolve these matters, others are forced to pursue litigation. That was the case in Gunderson v. State, a case where the parties were awash in a dispute over the public’s right to Lake Michigan’s shoreline.

The United States is a law-bound society that depends on adjudication to address many important questions. We thrust the poorest members of our society into the legal system to decide some of their most basic rights – can they continue to live where they’ve been living, can they keep receiving disability benefits or are they now able to work, how much will be taken from their meager paycheck to support a child or repay the payday loan they had to get to pay rent? Because of their economic status, they cannot pay for lawyers to help them through that process. As stated in the Rules of Professional Conduct, lawyers should volunteer their time to help in these cases, but pro bono alone will not fill the gap . . .