Dutch startup LegalThings has been commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of Justice to digitize laws on the blockchain. LegalThings, a software technology company, was founded in 2014 by software developer Arnold Daniels, lawyer Rick Schmitz as well as economist Martijn Migchelsen.
The company recently demonstrated how the blockchain could successfully store an entire law. In September 2017, it participated and won the first prize in a blockchain hackathon organized by the Dutch Ministry of Justice and Security. This win also came with the assignment to create the first digitized Dutch law on the blockchain.
The Netherlands has been keen to adopt the blockchain in order to improve many of its public services. The country has a number of blockchain adoption products in the pipeline; most are still in the research phase though. The Ministry of Justice is the first to implement the blockchain. The ministry hopes this will increase public participation in legal processes and hopes to decrease cases of fraud as well as ensure its citizens are able to access information easily and in an unbiased manner.
LegalThings platform combines FSM (finite state machine) with the blockchain to create something they call live contracts. According to the whitepaper “A Live Contract is a formal agreement that allows interaction. It is formalized in a way that is understandable for both humans and computers. This allows some tasks to be automated. However, the contract only shows the rules and presents available options. It allows each party to make their own decisions. By doing so, the process remains in control of us humans rather than the machines.”
LegalThings believes its Live Contracts platform is better applicable than smart contracts in real-world situations as it combines decentralization, automation as well as human interaction. The platform is created in a manner that makes it easy to understand for humans as well as computers. This will allow for automation of some parts of the legal process while still giving flexibility in order to make space for any eventualities.
The Dutch Ministry plans to use the Live Contracts solution to digitize some laws within its criminal code. It is mainly targeting what it calls “low classification cases.” These are typically minor crimes, such as petty theft and possession of small amount of drugs, which take up a considerable amount of time and clog up the legal system. The country also believes live contracts will save money as well as increase the overall level of satisfaction in the judicial process.
It remains to be seen how this platform performs, however, if it does prove to be a success then it will likely be a route many countries will be willing to go down.