Blockchain technology as a regulatory technology: From code is law to law is code

  • Primavera De Filippi
  • Samer Hassan

Abstract

“Code is law” refers to the idea that, with the advent of digital technology, code has progressively established itself as the predominant way to regulate the behavior of Internet users. Yet, while computer code can enforce rules more efficiently than legal code, it also comes with a series of limitations, mostly because it is difficult to transpose the ambiguity and flexibility of legal rules into a formalized language which can be interpreted by a machine. With the advent of blockchain technology and associated smart contracts, code is assuming an even stronger role in regulating people’s interactions over the Internet, as many contractual transactions get transposed into smart contract code. In this paper, we describe the shift from the traditional notion of “code is law” (i.e., code having the effect of law) to the new conception of “law is code” (i.e., law being defined as code).

Author Biographies

Primavera De Filippi

Permanent researcher at the National Center of Scientific Research (CNRS) in Paris.

Samer Hassan

Activist and researcher, Fellow at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society (Harvard University) and Associate Professor at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid (Spain).

Published
2016-11-14
How to Cite
Filippi, P. D., & Hassan, S. (2016). Blockchain technology as a regulatory technology: From code is law to law is code. First Monday, 21(12). https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v21i12.7113