Blockchain contracting and conveyancing systems

Blockchain technology — the technology that underlies Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency systems — is now available to be applied to contracts and conveyancing transactions (i.e., property transfers).

Technologies including Ethereum and Master Protocol and Mastercoin now enable this.

The developers of these technologies refer to the resulting electronic contracts and property transfers as “smart contracts” and “smart property”.

A new post at Thought Infection has spurred a wider discussion of these legal applications of blockchain technology: Cryptocontracts Will Turn Law Into a Programming Language.

The argument seems to be that the adoption of blockchain contracting and conveyancing systems will hasten the automation, decentralization, and democratization of commercial law.

Here are excerpts from the post:

[...] The twin technologies of cryptocurrencies and cryptocontracts are going to turn contract law into a programming language.

Essentially what we are talking about is a real democratization of contractual agreements. Whereas today contracts are restricted to deals with enough value to justify a lawyers time (mortgages, business deals, land transfer etc…), in the future there is no limit to what could be codified into simple contracts. You could imagine forming a self-enforcing contract around something as simple as sharing a lawnmower with your neighbor, hiring a babysitter, or forming a gourmet coffee club at work. Where this could really revolutionize things is in developing nations, where the ability to exchange small-scale microloans with self-enforcing contractual agreements that come at little or no cost would be a quantum leap forward.

‘For more exotic examples, I was thinking of what could come if such contracts were combined with the ubiquity of data tracking today. In my example above, you could set up a contract with my blog to transfer a micropayment to support the blog every time you refer to an idea you found on my blog. Similar payment contracts could be set up for knowledge archives like wikipedia where you might agree to submit a micropayment every time you use or reference information from the site. [...]

The emergence of cheap and plentiful self-enforcing contracts means that we can codify simple transactions and agreements. We will be able to reprogram our lives based on self-enforcing cryptocontracts.

The coming boom in cryptocontracts comes with its own risks as well. In a world where self enforced contracts will be an everyday occurrence, we must be much more careful clicking on those terms of service agreements which nobody reads. We are going to need to be well aware of what it is we are giving away. [...]

Ultimately, cryptocontracts will offer us a revolutionary new way to rebuild and reorganize our lives and our societies from the bottom up. [...]

Other law-related applications of blockchain technology include:

For more information, please see the complete post.

Additional related resources are in the comments to this post.

HT @ThoughtInfected and @konklone

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32 Responses to Blockchain contracting and conveyancing systems

  1. J.M. Porup: “Bitcoin + Contributoria = A Future Without Censorship” http://www.contributoria.com/issue/2014-03/52d52c6f86b560a44800010d [on the use of Bitcoin assurance contracts]

  2. Pingback: Katz and Schneider on Ethereum and legal applications of blockchain technology | Legal Informatics Blog

  3. A discussion among lawyers of Ethereum applications, May 6-7, 2014:

    https://storify.com/richards1000/discussion-of-ethereum-applications

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