Associate Professor Alex Sims

MComLaw, LLB


Alex is an Associate Professor in the Department of Commercial Law and Head of Department of Commercial Law. She teaches a wide range of commercial law subjects. Her primary areas of research and publication are on blockchain technology (the regulation of cryptocurrenices and legal issues surrounding smart contracts), consumer law and intellectual property law (in particular copyright law).

Buying cryptocurrencies: I have lots of people approach me asking for advice on how and where to buy cryptocurrencies and/or what cryptocurrencies to purchase because they think they can make money. I am not a financial advisor and I will not give people such advice. Blockchain technology is very important, but the rampant speculation that is going on is not good for the blockchain eco-system, for more see this article.

The technical, legal and societal issues surrounding blockchain are fascinating, however, while there are many opportunities there are risks. Blockchain's paradigm shifting nature can be difficult to comprehend, indeed it is an example of Arthur C Clarke's adage, "any sufficently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic". Blockchain technology may be as disruptive, if not more disruptive, than the Internet and it is vital for businesses, governments and others to understand blockchain technology and its potential uses, particularly in their field of operation. For some good resources on blockchain and its potential uses, see: 

Understand the blockchain in 90 seconds (video, 90 seconds)  

What is blockchain? (video by the World Economic Forum, 2.19 minutes)

Blockchain technology (video by UK Government Office for Science, 5.14 minutes) and see the report "Distributed Ledger Technology: beyond block chain" by the UK's Chief Scientific Adviser.)

IBM and Maersk (video on a cross-border supply solution using blockchain, 3.20 minutes).  

Cryptocurrencies and blockchain (excellent podcast explaining the potential for cyrptocurrencies and blockchain from the ABC - 29 minutes)

The Blockchain is being under-hyped - article from Psychology Today

These two reports from Australia's Data 61 are well worth reading: Distributed Ledgers: Scenarios for the Australian economy over the coming decades and Risks and Opportunities for Systems using Blockchain and Smart Contracts

For those with long attention spans who are really interested in the legal aspects of blockchain there is the Ether Review Legal Discussion #1 — Challenges in Blockchain Law (13 May 2017, is over an hour in length) - Great podcast about the challenges in blockchain law by legal experts in Australia, the United States and NZ - I was present at the beginning of the podcast, but had to leave early.

Upcoming presentations/seminars/workshops:

"Blockchain’s Promise for Privacy", Tuesday 27 February 2018, a "Talking About Privacy" seminar (Ellen Melville Centre – Pioneer Women’s Hall, Freyberg Place, Auckland 

Previous seminars/presentations:

“Fiat currencies, decentralised crypto and central bank issued cryptocurrencies: an arena for conflict?” Thursday 7 December 2017, 12.30 - 1.45pm, GB117, level 1, Old Government Buildings, 55 Lambton Quay, Wellington (The New Zealand Centre of International Economic Law, Faculty of Law, Victoria Universty of Wellington).

On "Digital democracy" panel at NetHui, 9 -10 November (

"Unfair Contract Terms: What Terms Might Fall Foul" at the legal seminar Contract Drafting: Eliminating Mistakes and Managing Risks on 15 November 2017.

"Blockchain Assets: Bitcoin, Ethereum and Other Cryptocurrencies and Tokens" at the legal seminar "Digital Estate Planning: Logging Off in Peace" on 16 November 2017.

"Assessing how blockchain is disrupting regulation of payments and smart contracts", Blockchain in Healthcare Summit 2017, 24-25 October 2017, Melbourne. 

'Blockchain’s transformative power and potential uses' at the North Shore Net Users Group on Thursday 26 October 2017

"Blockchain and IP" Asian Pacific Copyright Association (APCA), 29-31 October 2017, University of Technology Sydney

"Intro to the Potential of Blockchain", Monday 11 September 2017, Auckland, 6 - 7.30pm at GridAKL (101 Pakenham St West (on corner of Daldy St and Packenham Street)

Treasury Public Lecture, "The disruptive potential of Blockchain and Distributed Ledger Technology", Wednesday 6 September 2017, Wellington

Workshop - "Blockchain Technologies and their applicaton in the IP Space", Singapore Management University, Thursday 31 August 2017, Singapore,

"Blockchain Technology: The Disruptive Power it has on Businesses and the Challenge it's Creating for Lawmakers and Regulators", CBAFF Annual Conference, 17-19 May 2017, see 

"Patents/Copyright on the Blockchain" - Blockchain NZ Conference, 8-10 May 2017, ANZ Viaduct Events Centre, Auckland, see

"Blockchain: What it is and why it may just change (almost) everything", Friday 21 April, see  

For a recording of "Copyright for Innovation" discussing fair use, a co-hosted event with Internet NZ, on 21 February 2017 see

Recent publications (for more publications scroll down page)

A, Sims, "Blockchain technology and intellectual property" (2017) New Zealand Intellectual Property Journal 77 (editorial)

A, Sims, 'Copyright's Protection of Functional Objects in New Zealand' (2016) Intellectual Property Quarterly 297.

Current projects/grants

"Regulating Digital Currencies that use blockchain technology" - grant funded by the New Zealand Law Foundation.


"Cooking the Books podcast: Why you should be keeping an eye on bitcoin" (8 November 2017) NZ Herald, Cooking the Books podcast.

Ether Review Legal Discussion #1 — Challenges in Blockchain Law (13 May 2017) - Great podcast about the challenges in blockchain law by legal experts in Australia, the United States and NZ - I was present at the beginning of the podcast, but had to leave early.

Recent media

"Forget Bitcoin, Blockchain technology is much bigger" 17 December 2017, Stuff,

"Blockchain could save billions", 23 October 2017, Farmers Weekly at page 27​

"Controversial Blockchain system now available in NZ", radio interview, 16 October 2017, Morning Report, Radio NZ

"Auckland University Professor: Government must regulate Bitcoin and Ethereum" (6 September 2017, BTC Manager).

Interview on why the government needs to start regulating cryptocurrencies, (28 August 2017,

"Cybercurrency exchange offers more than bitcoin for New Zealand dollars" (11 June 2017, Stuff)

"A robot tax to save human jobs?" (19 April 2017, Newsroom) - 

"New kid on the supply chain block" (April 2017, FTD Magazine) - 

"How smart contracts could radically transform health and safety" (24 February 2017, NBR Special Report on IT/ICT - Information of Everything"

"NZ needs the same copyright exemption as US law allows" (23 February 2017) 

"Banks in 'technological arms race'" (8 January 2017)

"Australian copyright blueprint praised to halt NZ breaches" (23 December 2017) - talking about the Australian Productivity Commission Inquiry and Report that recommended Australia adopt fair use in copyright law. The Overview and Recommendations of the Report can be found here.

"Blockchain: Regulating a game-changing technology" (20 December 2016)

"Cryptocurrency in crossfire as surge in dodgy transactions reported to police intel" (19 December 2016)

"Trans-Tasman banking and legal experts focus on blockchain" (30 November 2016)

"Auckland University academic leading research project on regulating digital currencies keen to see consumers, not just banks, benefit" (29 November 2016)

Regulating revoluntionary new digital currencies (6 October 2016) 

Sports stars may face lawsuits over tattoos (5 September 2016)

Laws to protect consumers aren't working - academic Alexandra Sims (6 September 2016)

Unfair contracts not limited to energy companies (6 September 2016)

Copyright, Prince and the TPPA (29 April 2016) 

Bait advertising (12 April 2016)


Research | Current

Blockchain, including cryptocurrencies and smart contracts. Previous research has been on fair use in copyright law, copyright in tattoos, unfair contract terms and the delivery of goods guarantee under the Consumer Guarantees Act.

Teaching | Current


  • COMLAW 101: Law in a Business Environment (Summer School and First Semester)
  • COMLAW 320: Intellectual Property and Innovation (Second Semester)

Teaching qualifications:

  • Certificate of University Learning and Teaching - now called Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice (University of Auckland)


  • 2017 Unversity of Auckland Business School Distinguished Contribution Award 2017
  • 2008 Best Conference Paper Award for the 2007 Australasian Law Teachers' Association Annual Conference


Head of Department of Commercial Law 

Areas of expertise

  • Blockchain (legal issues)
  • Consumer Law
  • Intellectual Property

Committees/Professional groups/Services

  • University of Auckland Council - Academic Representative
  • University of Auckland Finance Committee - member
  • University of Auckland Student Appeals Committee - member
  • Senate - member
  • Convenor of the Law and Computers Interest Group for the Australasian Law Teachers' Association (ALTA)
  • Asian Pacific Copyright Association (APCA) - Committee member
  • University of Auckland's Cyber Security Foundry - Executive Committee member
  • Privacy Foundation - Committee member (
  • Member of the New Zealand Centre for Law and Business
  • Member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of the Australasian Law Teachers Association (JALTA)
  • Member of the Editorial Board of the University of Auckland Business Review (UABR)
  • Member of the Intellectual Property Society of Australia and New Zealand (IPSANZ)
  • Member of Blockchain Association of New Zealand
  • Member of InternetNZ
  • Member of Legal Research Foundation
  • Member of Authors Alliance

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

  • Sims, A. J. (2017). Consumer contracts and unfair contract terms. New Zealand Law Journal (2), 46-47.
  • Sims, A. J., & Mara, L. (2016). Unfair online contract terms in New Zealand: Evaluating the effect of regulatory change. Competition & Consumer Law Journal, 24 (2), 128-156. Related URL.
  • Corbett, S., & Sims, A. (2016). Sui Generis protection for sporting emblems and words: A triumph of pragmatism over principle. In S. Frankel, D. Gervais (Eds.) The internet and the emerging importance of new forms of intellectual property (pp. 117-138). The Netherlands: Kluwer Law International. Related URL.
  • Sims, A. J. (2016). Copyright's protection of functional objects in New Zealand. Intellectual Property Quarterly, 2016 (4), 297-317. Related URL.
  • Sims, A. (2016). The perils of full copyright protection for tattoos. European Intellectual Property Review, 38 (9), 570-576. Related URL.
  • Sims, A. J. (2016). The guarantee of delivery of goods under the Consumer Guarantees Act 1993 and its implications for Australia. Competition and Consumer Law Journal, 23 (3), 266-279. Related URL.
  • Sims, A. (2016). The case for fair use in New Zealand. International Journal of Law and Information Technology, 24 (2), 176-202. 10.1093/ijlit/eaw003
  • Sims, A. (2015). Piazza: Harnessing the wisdom of the crowd. Paper presented at 2015 Australasian Law Teachers' Association Conference: Legal Education and Access to Justice, Melbourne, Australia. 16 July - 18 July 2015. Related URL.


Contact details

Primary location

Level 5, Room 582
New Zealand

Web links