MITLegalForum

Refactoring Law and Legal Processes for the Digital Age

MIT Legal Discussion Group on Blockchain

This MIT Legal Forum small group discussion focuses on “Blockchain, Distributed Ledgers and Authoritative Systems” in the context of law and legal processes.

This group periodicaly convenes discussion around “anchor scenarios” based on hypothetical litigation in a mock trial format arising from use of blockchain or distributed ledger technology prototype, project or product. Anchor scenarios can enable deeper discussion by quickly conveying a usable fact pattern and situational context involving the technology and giving rise to key legal issues. Anchor scenarios are selected for their capability to enable discussion of key problems, options and opportunities for establishing appropriate and predictable legal results.

Blockchain-Enabled Digital Signature Mock Trial

This anchor scenario arose from a project by Members of Massachusetts Legal Hackers and the law.MIT.edu research team to develop a unique approach to blockchain based cryptographic signature rapid development. Rather than starting with the idea of building out some technology because it is cool and innovative or attempting to catch the wave of a specific business opportunity this prototype effort is starting with the assumption that the users have ended up in litigation and working backwards from that scenario. The idea is to test the legal sufficiency of blockchain based digital signatures for purposes of executing standard commercial contracts and also to explore whether the software implementation and manner of usage are likely to produce predictable legal results. By probing the jurisprudential event horizon in this way, we hope to reveal some combination of confirmation of our implementation path and probably also some unexpected hitches and snags along the way.

The unanticipated problems have already started to take form as we run through our draft “witness examination” scenario. Among other questions, we have discussed whether:

The group is using a Google Doc to draft the witness examination and other aspects of this novel process of “legal hacking” at the following URL: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1OT8sxwOqO3F7QCTlqaCAhIjMKwbXNEKB40xluQ1DOco/pub

The group expects and hopes the above exploratory prototyping method will generate constructive and valuable feedback and other inputs to the software tool and practical innovation design and build process.

The intention is that downstream implications of design-phase decisions will become visible and understood through the visceral experience of role playing litigation and that the crucible of evidentiary and other procedural rules can provide a clear and beneficial source of requirements, constraints and other priority capabilities.

This is literally a process of “evidence-based” requirements gathering.

Interested to follow along from afar? Want to grab an oar and help us row? This activity is being pursued as a participatory collaborative event series that is free and open to the public. To request an invitation to be a Participant or Volunteer Contributor of this discussion group, use the request form embedded at Law.MIT.edu/MITLegalForum and available here: https://goo.gl/forms/hgLhBbJ29Or2Y7UA2