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The Formation of Blockchain-based Smart Contracts in the Light of Contract Law

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Are smart contracts marking the end of contract formation as we know it? In an event held by the Jean Monnet Module on Liability of Robots, top experts examine the formation of (blockchain-based) smart contracts and discuss whether the traditional common law concept of contract formation is seriously challenged by the rise of smart contracts.

In the first event held by the Jean Monnet Module on Liability of Robots: A European Vision for a New Legal Regime (LEGROB) granted to IE Law School´s Professor Francisco de Elizalde, Dr. Mateja Durovic, Lecturer in Law at King´s College London, and Andre Janssen, Chair Professor at Radboud University Nijmegen examined the formation of (blockchain-based) smart contracts. In the seminar offered to IE Law School students and community, the experts discussed whether the traditional common law concept of contract formation is seriously challenged by the rise of smart contracts.

“When we talk about how law should respond to the development of new technologies there are two main objectives: law must not inhibit the development of these new technologies and there must be some legal framework, which is especially important in the context of contract law”, emphasized Dr. Mateja Durovic, Lecturer in Law at King´s College London

In the seminar, the experts analyzed what the term “smart contract” means, as for many they are neither legal contracts in the traditional sense nor they are smart, so the term is, therefore, a misnomer.

“One of the main challenges is to figure out whether smart contracts are in line with consumer law. Most people think that consumer law is not applicable to smart contract scenarios, but this is not true. As academics we need to figure out what are the actual problems with regard to consumer law and smart contracts”, explained Andre Janssen, Chair Professor at Radboud University Nijmegen.

 

About the Jean Monnet Module on Liability of Robots

The Jean Monnet Module on Liability of Robots: A European Vision for a New Legal Regime (LEGROB) is devoted to teaching, researching and debating on how the EU is going to take action on the regulation of the Liability of Robots. This Module is co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme – Jean Monnet Activities of the European Union.

The subject matter of the Module addresses a particular aspect (the liability) of what is probably ‘the’ most important issue in the forthcoming development of the global economy – AI and robotics. It will define if the EU will continue to be a leading economy in the global scenario or, instead, a follower of more advanced nations.

The aim is to prepare future lawyers and policymakers in the regulation of a topic that will be of prime relevance during their professional lives and provide them a European vision to approach it.

“In LEGROB we are analyzing traditional concepts of law from the angle of artificial intelligence. On top of that, we are having research activities to understand how AI impacts traditional notions of law,” explains Professor Francisco de Elizalde.

The Module is designed to modernize the dual degree on Law and International Relations by introducing an assessment of the liability of smart robots across the curriculum. This methodology is innovative as it takes a project-based approach in which an issue is analyzed from a variety of legal disciplines and embedded in the traditional discourse of each one of them. The innovation also arises from the fact that students will be trained to think in a future regulation – unlike customary teaching that starts from existing hard law.