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Smart Contracts and Blockchain Technology

Last modified Feb 14

Introduction

Technological improvements and innovations foster the digital transformation of modern societies. Many different notions of this transformation, e.g.. digitization, on every level of society can be observed. This is also true in the legal domain, which is still at a very early stage of digitization. Advances in computer science and information systems research have now created technologies, that are supposed to have the potential of reshaping wide areas of the legal system as it is established nowadays. Especially contractual law seems to be highly suitable for digitization. The idea of having contracts or contractual rights and obligations in an executable representation, so-called smart contracts, is not new but in the light of today's innovations more attractive than ever.

In order to create a digital ledger, the contained data, i.e. transactions, need to be stored safely. This means that the total order and content of the occurring transactions needs to be maintained. Within blockchains, individual transactions are grouped into blocks, which are consecutively persisted. Each block, except the first block (genesis block), contains a pointer to the previously validated block. Using a mathematical procedure, i.e. hashing, the chain of blocks are entangled such that non-tail blocks cannot be changed unnoticed. This, the integirty of the chain is guaranteed. In order to ensure the integrity, it is necessary to recalculate the hashes of the individual blocks, which can be done at will by everyone participating at the peer-to-peer network.

Problem statement

This research project investigates the technological requirements and possibilities for the usage and installation of Smart Contracts. In contrary to many other (former) attempts this discourse will be held in close conjunction with computer scientists, software engineers, legal scientists, and legal practitioners. In addition, we seek forward to exchange with industry and start-ups.