The UK Law Commission has begun research into blockchain technology, specifically smart contracts, in order to reform current laws to reflect their legal viability and use cases.

The commission published a working paper on Thursday detailing the extent of the agency’s research thus far. Initial research has already begun, according to the paper, with the in-depth study starting this summer. The project is described as working towards formulating laws that sufficiently reflects the nuances of the emerging technology, including providing flexibility in a ”global, digital context” while providing both legal clarity and certainty.

Legislating for smart contracts

In a promising moment for the blockchain industry, the commission noted its interest in smart contracts, specifically acknowledging their potential to bring “trust and certainty” to businesses in a way that could reduce transaction costs. The UK must then adjust laws in order to cater to enterprises willing to use and promote smart contracts, the commission believes.

The working paper notes that it may well even be crucial for UK courts to provide an effective legal framework to suit smart contracts or risk becoming an uncompetitive choice for business. As well as saying the commission is serious about producing legal reforms, it also described the case for reviewing English laws as ”compelling“.

The research is anticipated to take between 9 and 18 months, with several factors relating to current law considered potentially problematic. In one instance, implied terms are cited as possibly incompatible with smart contracts. As well as this, data protection laws such as the recently-legislated GDPR may be conflicting.

However, there appears to be a strong movement in favor of shifting the legal framework for blockchain compatibility. Renowned British judge John Thomas last year said that he believed UK laws must be reformed to suit smart contracts.


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