How The FIT Act of 2023 Defines "Digital Assets"

This article delves into the Act's definition of digital assets, exploring the unique characteristics that distinguish these assets and the implications for their regulatory status and the broader digital asset ecosystem.

In the ever-evolving landscape of blockchain technology and digital assets, regulatory clarity is of utmost importance. To address this need, the Financial Innovation and Technology for the 21st Century Act, also known as the FIT Act, has been proposed. If passed, this legislation would be significant milestone, providing much-needed definitions and guidelines in the realm of digital assets.

A crucial aspect of the FIT Act is the definition of 'Digital Assets', a term that has been widely used but seldom clearly defined in the regulatory context. This definition forms the foundation for understanding the applicability of various legal and regulatory requirements to different types of digital assets.

Definition of Digital Assets Under the FIT Act of 2023

The FIT Act provides a comprehensive definition of digital assets, which is key to understanding how these assets are treated under the law.

According to the Act, a digital asset is any fungible digital representation of value that can be exclusively possessed and transferred, person to person, without necessary reliance on an intermediary.

Furthermore, the digital asset is recorded on a cryptographically secured public distributed ledger.

Here is the exact language from the FIT Act:

any fungible digital representation of value that can be exclusively possessed and transferred, person to person, without necessary reliance on an intermediary, and is recorded on a cryptographically secured public distributed ledger.

This definition highlights a few critical characteristics of digital assets:

  1. Fungibility: The asset can be interchanged with other individual units of the same type. Similar to how traditional currencies operate, each unit of a digital asset is identical to every other unit.
  2. Exclusive Possession and Person-to-Person Transfer: This emphasizes the peer-to-peer nature of digital asset transactions. Digital assets can be transferred directly between parties without the need for an intermediary, highlighting the decentralization aspect of these assets.
  3. Cryptographically Secured Public Distributed Ledger: This component signifies that digital assets are typically associated with blockchain technology or other forms of distributed ledger technology, which provide a secure and transparent method of recording transactions.

In the next section, we'll delve into the exclusions from this definition as stated in the FIT Act, which further refines our understanding of what constitutes a digital asset.

Exclusions from the Definition of Digital Assets

The FIT Act also provides a set of exclusions from the definition of digital assets. These exclusions help to draw a clear line between digital assets and other types of financial instruments. Specifically, the Act states that the term 'digital asset' does not include:

  1. Any note, stock, treasury stock, security future, security-based swap, bond, debenture, evidence of indebtedness, certificate of interest or participation in any profit-sharing agreement, collateral-trust certificate, preorganization certificate, or subscription, or transferable share.
  2. Any asset which represents, operates as the functional equivalent of, or otherwise has embedded functionality or characteristics which make it an agreement, contract, or transaction that is a contract of sale of a commodity for future delivery, a security futures product, a swap, an agreement, contract, or transaction described in certain sections of the Commodity Exchange Act, a commodity option authorized under the Commodity Exchange Act, or a leverage transaction authorized under the Commodity Exchange Act.

These exclusions essentially rule out various traditional financial instruments and derivatives from being classified as digital assets. This is crucial for regulatory purposes as these instruments are subject to their own sets of laws and regulations. By explicitly excluding these instruments, the FIT Act ensures that the regulatory requirements specific to digital assets do not inadvertently overlap with the existing regulatory frameworks for these other types of financial instruments.

Furthermore, these exclusions also serve to clarify the unique characteristics that distinguish digital assets from these other types of financial instruments. By doing so, the FIT Act helps to demarcate the unique space that digital assets occupy within the broader financial ecosystem.

In the next part of this article, we'll discuss how a digital asset's relationship to a blockchain system is considered under the FIT Act.

Relationship of Digital Assets to a Blockchain System

A critical aspect of the FIT Act's definition of a digital asset pertains to its relationship with a blockchain system. The Act states that a digital asset is considered to relate to a blockchain system if the digital asset is intrinsically linked to the blockchain system in any of the following ways:

  1. The digital asset's value is reasonably expected to be generated by the programmatic functioning of the blockchain system.
  2. The asset has voting rights with respect to the blockchain system.
  3. The digital asset is issued through the programmatic functioning of the blockchain system.

These factors underscore the integral role of blockchain technology in the existence and functioning of digital assets.

Firstly, the value of a digital asset often stems from the underlying blockchain system's programmatic functioning. This could be due to the system's operational characteristics, the utility it provides to its users, or its native token's role within the system. This intrinsic linkage between a digital asset's value and its associated blockchain system distinguishes digital assets from traditional assets, whose value typically derives from external factors.

Secondly, many digital assets confer voting rights with respect to their blockchain system. These voting rights can influence the development and direction of the blockchain system, reflecting the decentralized and democratic ethos of many blockchain systems. This is a novel characteristic that distinguishes digital assets from most traditional financial instruments.

Lastly, the issuance of a digital asset through the programmatic functioning of a blockchain system further reinforces the link between digital assets and their underlying technology. This programmatic issuance often takes place through specific algorithms or protocols, which are defined at the blockchain system's inception and are typically transparent to all network participants.

These defining characteristics, as outlined in the FIT Act, emphasize the intrinsic connection between digital assets and blockchain technology. They highlight how digital assets are not merely digital versions of traditional assets, but rather represent a new asset class that is inherently tied to the innovative technology that underpins them.

In the next section, we will explore how the FIT Act deals with digital assets sold or transferred pursuant to an investment contract.

Treatment of Digital Assets Sold Pursuant to an Investment Contract

In the realm of financial regulation, how an asset is sold or transferred can have significant implications for its legal and regulatory status. This is particularly true for digital assets, which can be distributed in a variety of ways, including through initial coin offerings (ICOs), token sales, and other forms of investment contracts.

The FIT Act makes a key distinction in this area. According to the Act, a digital asset that is sold or transferred, or intended to be sold or transferred, as part of an investment contract does not become a security as a result of being sold or transferred under that investment contract. This provision is critical as it separates the manner in which a digital asset is sold from the inherent nature of the digital asset itself.

Traditionally, if an asset is sold as part of an investment contract, it could be classified as a security, subject to the regulatory jurisdiction of bodies like the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in the U.S. This classification would impose certain regulatory requirements on the issuer of the asset, such as registration and disclosure obligations.

However, the FIT Act's provision indicates that simply because a digital asset is sold as part of an investment contract, it does not automatically become a security. Instead, the nature of the digital asset itself, particularly its relationship with a blockchain system, would be the determining factor.

This provision could have significant implications for digital asset issuers and investors. It suggests that digital asset issuers may be able to structure their token sales in ways that avoid the asset being classified as a security, provided the asset fits within the FIT Act's definition of a digital asset. This could potentially offer more flexibility in how digital assets are distributed and could impact the legal and regulatory landscape for digital assets.

In the final section, we will conclude our discussion and reflect on the broader implications of the FIT Act's definition of a digital asset.

Implications of the FIT Act's Definition of Digital Assets

The FIT Act's definition of digital assets carries significant implications for the regulatory status of these assets and the wider digital asset ecosystem. Here are a few key takeaways:

  1. Regulatory Clarification: The detailed definition of digital assets provides a clear framework for understanding and classifying these assets. By establishing what constitutes a digital asset and what does not, the FIT Act offers much-needed clarity that could help foster further innovation and growth in the digital asset space.
  2. Potential for Regulatory Flexibility: By stipulating that digital assets sold as part of an investment contract do not automatically become securities, the FIT Act may provide a pathway for digital asset issuers to avoid stringent securities regulations. However, this would depend on the specifics of the digital asset and the nature of the investment contract.
  3. Emphasis on Decentralization: The Act's focus on the relationship between a digital asset and a blockchain system highlights the importance of decentralization. It suggests that digital assets linked to a decentralized blockchain could be treated differently from those associated with a more centralized system.
  4. Exclusion of Certain Financial Instruments: The exclusion of certain types of financial instruments from the definition of digital assets indicates a desire to separate the realm of digital assets from more traditional financial products. This could prevent regulatory overlap and ensure that digital assets are regulated in a manner appropriate to their unique characteristics.


The FIT Act's definition of a digital asset represents a significant step forward in the regulatory treatment of digital assets. By providing a clear and detailed definition, the Act offers a roadmap for understanding these complex assets and their relationship with underlying blockchain systems.

While this definition provides a strong foundation, it's important to remember that the digital asset landscape is rapidly evolving. As such, the regulatory framework for these assets, including the definitions provided in the FIT Act, may continue to evolve in response to new developments and challenges.

The journey towards a comprehensive regulatory framework for digital assets is a complex one, fraught with both challenges and opportunities. However, with the FIT Act, regulators have made a significant stride towards achieving this goal. As we move forward, it will be fascinating to see how this definition is applied and how it shapes the future of digital assets.