Dig South, an interactive digital media conference set for April in Charleston, is accepting Bitcoins for registration. The world's first decentralized digital currency, Bitcoin is unlike paper money, has no public face or founder, and it isn't regulated or backed by a government.
"As a festival that embraces innovation, Dig South is excited to be one of the first events to accept Bitcoin for registration," Stanfield Gray, the event's founder, said in a statement. "Bitcoin and the disruptive movement it represents is a great example of the innovation and risk-taking we celebrate at Dig South."
Charleston has a history with Bitcoin. As the City Paper wrote in September
Back in April, federal agents allege that they seized 11.02 Bitcoins from a 31-year-old hospitality worker named Eric Hughes, who was living in downtown Charleston. The case immediately made a splash in the murky realm of online economies. The federal Drug Enforcement Agency said Hughes went by Casey Jones, a name linked to an identity on the internet black market called Silk Road in connection with the sale of prescription pills. The underground marketplace exists on the anonymous Tor Network in the caverns of the Undernet, also known as the Deep Web. The Charleston seizure here marked the first time the feds had ever confiscated Bitcoins, and the DEA posted a public forfeiture notice online.
David Aylor, the local attorney who took on the case and represents Hughes, says it's still pending and there hasn't been much movement on it. But in the meantime, after researching Bitcoins, Aylor says he's become more involved in the world of digital currency. He runs a Bitcoin blog
and will be speaking at a January Bitcoin conference
"I had a client actually pay me in Bitcoins," he says, adding that it was for business consulting and wasn't a criminal client. As for Dig South accepting the controversial currency, Aylor's not really surprised.
"I think you're going to start seeing a lot of that," he says. "It's a way to get new business."
A finite number of Bitcoins exist — 21 million to be exact — and to obtain them they must be "mined" online, through computer processors. Bitcoin has also been linked to underground online black markets where drugs and guns are bought and sold with the digital currency. Federal regulators have been monitoring their use. Earlier this year, the top banking regulator in New York subpoenaed nearly two dozen Bitcoin companies to see if they were abiding by the nation's financial regulatory rules because the anonymous nature of virtual currency "helped support dangerous criminal activity, such as drug smuggling, money laundering, gun running, and child pornography."
That hasn't stopped large companies from accepting the currency. The blogging company WordPress accepts Bitcoins, as does WikiLeaks, the dating website OKCupid, and the popular social news and entertainment site Reddit. Also: nearly an entire neighborhood in Berlin
The U.K. Guardian
recently asked in a headline
, "Is Bitcoin About to Change the World?"
For his part, Aylor thinks it will.
Dig South takes place April 9-13 in Charleston and will feature more than 150 presenters including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn Buzzfeed.