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Blockchain: Legal implications, questions, opportunities and risks

Understanding the potential benefits, risks and technology behind blockchain

Blockchain continues to be the most polarising concept in technology—with its advocates and critics each fervently making their case for the technology’s potential and necessity, or its folly and waste. There is, however, consensus that ‘blockchain’ is relevant.

In short, blockchain continues to develop beyond its initial cryptocurrency use case, into areas such as ‘non-fungible tokens’, ‘decentralised autonomous organisations’ and decentralised finance—often with little respect for the status quo. To blockchain proponents, these use cases are overpowering and underway. To critics, they are overcooked and underwhelming. In any case, it behoves us to pay attention and to understand the ‘what’, ‘how’ and ‘why’ of blockchain, as its relevance looks set to continue.

This paper takes a high-level view of blockchain technology, its practicalities, and how it can be applied to the legal landscape while also looking at future opportunities for the technology.

Learn more about blockchain

This paper is broken out into sections that explore what blockchain is and how it is impacting the legal environment. The outline below briefly summarises each section of the paper.

  • At its simplest, blockchain involves recording information in a way that creates trust in the information recorded.
  • This provides value to users because it creates a transparent chain of data, eliminating the need for intermediaries and other third parties, while being both safe and cost efficient.
  • Since blockchain records are immutable, it is essential that the technical requirements are established up front.
  • Legal input is essential to understand what requirements must be fulfilled or avoided and any regulatory frameworks must be complied with.
  • As such the name smart contracts is a misnomer: they are neither smart (there is no cognitive component), nor a contract in a legal sense. Why then are they a useful element in blockchain?
  • A number of solutions are being explored as lawyers wrestle with the legal implications of blockchain.
  • Parties trading globally need higher supply chain visibility and security, data that is both high quality and secure, and trade compliance systems that can cope with electronic exchange of data. Technologies such as blockchain allow businesses to cope with these challenges.

Deloitte Legal is involved in the Deloitte Blockchain Institute which offers an end-to-end portfolio of services from ideation to implementation to make your blockchain vision work. We already have over 20 prototypes in development and combine our legal, technological, talent, strategy and operations expertise to provide fully integrated blockchain capabilities.

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