Center for Decentralized Governance

An Open Collection of Legal Forms and Smart Contracts
Supporting a Simple, Secure, Peer-to-Peer System of
Transacting, Law and Governance

Summary:

A “Center for Decentralized Governance” would provide governance for codified legal templates and related “smart contract” code.  CommonAccord.org has developed the technology and a base of materials for codifying legal documents as text “objects.”

The templates and related code would be available to everyone, in open source.  They can be used with existing transacting platforms and with new peer-to-peer platforms.  We anticipate that similar collections  would develop, internationally and locally, which would be curated by associations, trade groups and others.  We also anticipate that the collections would converge, forming a linked ensemble.

Background:

A number of major lines of development are converging:  peer-to-peer, publishing, and legal.

  • Peer-to-peer forces include technical and political.  The most widely-known technical forces are in payments – both open source and commercial – such as Bitcoin/blockchain, R3cev, Apple Pay, Hyperledger, etc.  Another force is “identity management,” which concerns the safe handling of information about persons, including health information, not just financial information.  The Kantara Initiative and MIT Connection Science are leaders in this field.
  • Political forces for peer-to-peer are widespread, but Europe may be the most powerful force.  Both the European General Data Protection Regulation and the European Payment Services Directive require a reorganization of e-commerce and data-handling practices based on individual autonomy and conservative data practices.
  • Publishing is becoming peer-to-peer.  Wikis are widely-known, but the “git” technology (originated by the creator of Linux) is much more powerful and has become the dominant technology for publishing complex (software) texts.  It seamlessly blends public publishing with private, secure collaborations of the kind required in legal negotiations.
  • Law seeks standards, and there are many long-standing efforts in codification, including model document projects, Restatements, trade group systems such as ISDA.  Standards development has been inhibited by the legal profession’s nearly universal adoption of word-processing as our tool for collaboration.  The technical and political forces mentioned above are inconsistent with word-processing-based collaboration, so we appear to be the moment when we shift to web technologies.  The next section describes a new fit between tech and law.

Explanation of the Technical Concept – a Legal “Object Model”:

Legal events are formalized as records:  signed documents, invoices, database entries, and the like.  These records have an implied set of relationships (“object model”), much of it shared widely via legal theory, laws, forms, model documents, precedents, software and e-commerce.

Most of transaction events are expressed as structured or at least semi-structured information, for instance on-line purchases, credit card payments, stock transfers, and most supply chain transactions.   There is a rump of unstructured, word-processing-based transacting that covers a very broad range of transacting, including very high value transactions and very important personal matters.

Structured text is, of course, well-known in law.  There are legal codes, model laws, model documents and even codifications with indirect legal effect, such as Restatements.  Codifications reflect experience and wisdom and provide targets for further accumulation of experience and wisdom.  These accumulations improve certainty and can be leveraged for both human and machine-based reasoning.  What we have been missing is a common platform and methodology.  This is provided by the git and peer-to-peer payments platforms.  CommonAccord demonstrates the missing piece – an appropriate programming language for legal events.

This points to a shared relationship map (again, an “object model”) of codified legal text and code.  It is essential that the object model be public, available to all, and comprehensible to as many as possible.  To the extent possible, it should permit people and communities to act with autonomy while leveraging the wisdom of others.

CommonAccord:

In work done primarily by James Hazard, in cooperation with Marc Dangeard (Cmacc Transact) and Thomas Hardjono (MIT Connection Science) and with critical assistance by Primavera De Filippi of Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center, CommonAccord demonstrates a simple model of codification.  Legal events are expressed in a “smart contract” format that states the particulars and references a context of business, law and software.  This makes the implied object model become legally-familiar, computable and easily adopted.  

Center for Decentralized Law:

We believe that the codified materials should be held for the public.  We further believe that the ABA Center on Innovation could be an essential partner, helping legal inclusiveness and legal clarity.  

Some Current Activities:

CommonAccord is a member of the French “LaBChain” initiative, and was the subject of a conference at the MIT Media Lab co-organized by Hardjono and Hazard.  Hardjono and Hazard have also made a submission to the W3C workshop on blockchains, and initiated a Kantara Initiative discussion group.  We are in discussions with the IACCM for a codification of master services agreements.  The system has been experimented with by law students at Paris II.

Contacts:

James Hazard – james.g.hazard@gmail.com

Thomas Hardjono – hardjono@mit.edu
Marc Dangeard – marcdangeard@gmail.com
@commonaccord
Commonaccord.org
github.com/commonaccord/