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Blockchain and the Law: The Rule of Code

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Since Bitcoin appeared in 2009, the digital currency has been hailed as an Internet marvel and decried as the preferred transaction vehicle for all manner of criminals. It has left nearly everyone without a computer science degree confused: Just how do you "mine" money from ones and zeros? The answer lies in a technology called blockchain, which can be used for much more th Since Bitcoin appeared in 2009, the digital currency has been hailed as an Internet marvel and decried as the preferred transaction vehicle for all manner of criminals. It has left nearly everyone without a computer science degree confused: Just how do you "mine" money from ones and zeros? The answer lies in a technology called blockchain, which can be used for much more than Bitcoin. A general-purpose tool for creating secure, decentralized, peer-to-peer applications, blockchain technology has been compared to the Internet itself in both form and impact. Some have said this tool may change society as we know it. Blockchains are being used to create autonomous computer programs known as "smart contracts," to expedite payments, to create financial instruments, to organize the exchange of data and information, and to facilitate interactions between humans and machines. The technology could affect governance itself, by supporting new organizational structures that promote more democratic and participatory decision making. Primavera De Filippi and Aaron Wright acknowledge this potential and urge the law to catch up. That is because disintermediation--a blockchain's greatest asset--subverts critical regulation. By cutting out middlemen, such as large online operators and multinational corporations, blockchains run the risk of undermining the capacity of governmental authorities to supervise activities in banking, commerce, law, and other vital areas. De Filippi and Wright welcome the new possibilities inherent in blockchains. But as Blockchain and the Law makes clear, the technology cannot be harnessed productively without new rules and new approaches to legal thinking.


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Since Bitcoin appeared in 2009, the digital currency has been hailed as an Internet marvel and decried as the preferred transaction vehicle for all manner of criminals. It has left nearly everyone without a computer science degree confused: Just how do you "mine" money from ones and zeros? The answer lies in a technology called blockchain, which can be used for much more th Since Bitcoin appeared in 2009, the digital currency has been hailed as an Internet marvel and decried as the preferred transaction vehicle for all manner of criminals. It has left nearly everyone without a computer science degree confused: Just how do you "mine" money from ones and zeros? The answer lies in a technology called blockchain, which can be used for much more than Bitcoin. A general-purpose tool for creating secure, decentralized, peer-to-peer applications, blockchain technology has been compared to the Internet itself in both form and impact. Some have said this tool may change society as we know it. Blockchains are being used to create autonomous computer programs known as "smart contracts," to expedite payments, to create financial instruments, to organize the exchange of data and information, and to facilitate interactions between humans and machines. The technology could affect governance itself, by supporting new organizational structures that promote more democratic and participatory decision making. Primavera De Filippi and Aaron Wright acknowledge this potential and urge the law to catch up. That is because disintermediation--a blockchain's greatest asset--subverts critical regulation. By cutting out middlemen, such as large online operators and multinational corporations, blockchains run the risk of undermining the capacity of governmental authorities to supervise activities in banking, commerce, law, and other vital areas. De Filippi and Wright welcome the new possibilities inherent in blockchains. But as Blockchain and the Law makes clear, the technology cannot be harnessed productively without new rules and new approaches to legal thinking.

30 review for Blockchain and the Law: The Rule of Code

  1. 5 out of 5

    Mehrsa

    This is a comprehensive book about how blockchain and its related technologies interact with different legal spheres. It is thorough and somewhat dry, but useful for those of us into that sort of thing. I do have to say that I am so tired (after a decade of reading about blockchain) about all the amazing things it is going to do. Do it already or stop making breathless promises about how this old technology is going to change the world.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Frederik

    This book provides a great introduction into the possibilities and risks related to blockchains. As the authors show, blockchains such as Bitcoin and Ethereum, which are in essence decentralised distributed public ledgers, can be used to perform (smart) contracts without the need for human intervention (lex cryptographica). The code, which is difficult to change, regulates the behaviour of all participants regardless of whether the code is moral or legally allowed. Neither is the code, at this m This book provides a great introduction into the possibilities and risks related to blockchains. As the authors show, blockchains such as Bitcoin and Ethereum, which are in essence decentralised distributed public ledgers, can be used to perform (smart) contracts without the need for human intervention (lex cryptographica). The code, which is difficult to change, regulates the behaviour of all participants regardless of whether the code is moral or legally allowed. Neither is the code, at this moment, particularly smart, as it does not understand broad terms such as "good faith" or interpret what constitutes theft (The DAO event). Therefore, input from human beings (such as for example arbitrators) remains necessary to keep up with the nuances of the real world. Contrary to initial popular belief, governments are able to inspect blockchains as they are public ledgers on which data is not kept anonymously. Governments could also use their power to make intermediairies or certain participants such as dapp developers, miners or hardware developers legally liable for interacting with an address flagged by the government or for not providing a backdoor. Nevertheless, blockchains provide more opportunities for humans to cooperate, without the need for various intermediaries. The trust of intermediaries will partially be shifted to trust in the immutability of the code.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Sasha Mircov

    The book is an excellent treatment of a complex and complicated new technology such as the blockchain, which can't be said for most of the work on the topic. The author's lens is of a legal scholar, and the book posits opportunities and threats of the technology and its various uses, all while avoiding the hype surrounding the crypto-space today. The book is an excellent treatment of a complex and complicated new technology such as the blockchain, which can't be said for most of the work on the topic. The author's lens is of a legal scholar, and the book posits opportunities and threats of the technology and its various uses, all while avoiding the hype surrounding the crypto-space today.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Steven

    A good overview of how decentralized ledger technology is impacting, and may continue to impact the legal field, as well as how the legal field will be changed by the foundation-changing tech.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Richard Thompson

    I am a lawyer. I have worked on several blockchain projects and have read a number of books and articles about blockchain, so I had a good grounding in the subject before I picked up this book. It's a good thing that I did because I think that I might have had some trouble understanding parts of it if I didn't have the background, but as a book that requires some background to fully understand, it doesn't go deep enough. It's too hard and too easy at the same time. I am fascinated by the possibil I am a lawyer. I have worked on several blockchain projects and have read a number of books and articles about blockchain, so I had a good grounding in the subject before I picked up this book. It's a good thing that I did because I think that I might have had some trouble understanding parts of it if I didn't have the background, but as a book that requires some background to fully understand, it doesn't go deep enough. It's too hard and too easy at the same time. I am fascinated by the possibility of using blockchain to build hybrid contracts that are both legally binding natural language instruments and incorporate smart contract code as part of the agreement. The book only scratches the surface on this one. And there are a ton of legal issues around when blockchain-enabled tokens are or are not securities that should have been discussed in more depth. I thought that the discussion of ways in which the government could regulate blockchain businesses was incomplete and sometimes naive. There is a lot here that is good. The book covers a lot of ground and got me thinking in a couple of areas that I hadn't previously considered like some of the legal implications of using blockchain in the internet of things. I particularly liked the way that the authors applied Larry Lessig's ideas about the interaction of law, social norms and technology to the world of blockchain. But the book could have been a lot better. It was a missed opportunity.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Nelson

    If you're lawyer or you're pursuing something related with laws and bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, I think this is an excellent book to start understanding how two worlds can combine and make the market we have today. More important, it's mandatory to understand this book as a guide through different scenarios and you have to keep researching it but your compass to explore, build it with this book. If you're lawyer or you're pursuing something related with laws and bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, I think this is an excellent book to start understanding how two worlds can combine and make the market we have today. More important, it's mandatory to understand this book as a guide through different scenarios and you have to keep researching it but your compass to explore, build it with this book.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Sofya_ch

    Quite an interesting book, giving a broad overview of possible implications of Blockchain on different areas of life, and the legal consequences of it. I enjoyed the introductory section that explained quite well the foundations of Blockchain, how encryption works and what I did not know (e.g. zero-knowledge proof). Throughout the whole the authors keep coming back to the impact of “lex cryptographica” on the society, which does raise a lot of question of how our world will operate, the values th Quite an interesting book, giving a broad overview of possible implications of Blockchain on different areas of life, and the legal consequences of it. I enjoyed the introductory section that explained quite well the foundations of Blockchain, how encryption works and what I did not know (e.g. zero-knowledge proof). Throughout the whole the authors keep coming back to the impact of “lex cryptographica” on the society, which does raise a lot of question of how our world will operate, the values that it will have and how our traditional institutions of power will be forced to adapt to the changed. One of the best things about this book is that it is so new (2018), thus it didn’t have a chance to become obsolete just yet (although in couple of months that could easily be the case). What never ceases to astonish me are the great many applications of Blockchain, how it is transforming and can transform the financial sector, but also maybe corporate world, with the concept of DAO (however the notion of a completely decentralized organization is still bizarre for me, so outside of what we are used to). One of the good points I liked was about Internet and constant comparisons that everyone like to draw between it and Blockchain. Similar to the present discourse, when Internet emerged everyone was sure that it will lead to the anarchy and social liberation. However the State found “points of control” through Internet providers to influence the content of the Web, and thus exert its authority even in the vast space of the Internet. Similarly, the author in the chapter “Modes of regulation” demonstrates possible ways to regulate Blockchain, influence the conduct of all its participants. Despite many questions that arise during this analysis (for one, using Bitcoin as a constant example does not seem appropriate, since its only one of the applications of Blockchain with its unique characteristics that can differ significantly from other applications), I do believe that states will find a way to regulate blockchain (if talking about cryptocurrencies, for example, the most evident way it seems to me is through regulating crypto-exchange providers). Also, a lot of people are talking about how Blockchain eliminates the need for intermediaries, however, as rightly noted by the authors, everyone thought the same thing about Internet, and yet here we are, trying to combat those Internet-based intermediaries now with a new so-called “panacea”. In my view, intermediaries will come onto blockchain and the inherent complexity of the social interactions, along with human laziness will lead to introdiuction of blockchain-based intermediaries, that might be more efficient than what we have, but they will still be there, as people like to shift the burden of worrying about some things to “professionals”, and as long as it comes at a reasonable price – they will opt for that, instead of doing everything themselves. The book ends at a powerful and dramatic line: “Decentralized Blockchain-based application may well liberate use of the tyranny of centralized intermediaries and trusted authorities, but this liberation could come at the price of a much larger threat – that of falling under the yoke of the tyranny of code”. And that is more of a reason for more people to be educated to understand the mechanics behind the code to be able to control it and design boundaries for it.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Thiago Lima

    Ontem terminei de ler o livro Blockchain and the Law: The rule of Code, livro escrito por Primavera De Filippi e Aaron Wright. Foi dica de Liliane Tie e é um dos livros que mais mecheram com os meus conceitos ultimamente. (Obrigado Lili!!!!!!!) Sugiro fortemente a leitura pra todos os amigos que trabalham ou vivem a área de tecnologia, computação e sistemas eletrônicos e também apreciam política e querem entender as transformações de nossa sociedade e como o Blockchain já está impactando nessa tr Ontem terminei de ler o livro Blockchain and the Law: The rule of Code, livro escrito por Primavera De Filippi e Aaron Wright. Foi dica de Liliane Tie e é um dos livros que mais mecheram com os meus conceitos ultimamente. (Obrigado Lili!!!!!!!) Sugiro fortemente a leitura pra todos os amigos que trabalham ou vivem a área de tecnologia, computação e sistemas eletrônicos e também apreciam política e querem entender as transformações de nossa sociedade e como o Blockchain já está impactando nessa transformação. Durante o livro citam sobre aspectos de funcionamento da tecnologia a fundo, sobre blockchain of things e sistemas autônomos de fato, explica sobre DAOs (Organizações Autônomas Descentralizadas) e também o poder que contratos inteligentes poderiam ter pra servir de instrumento para ações ilícitas e criminosas. Discute sobre ser anônimo e mostra que a tecnologia por trás de diversas criptomoedas de fato permite isso. A transformação que pode acontecer em nossa sociedade, em especial na mudança das leis regidas pelo estado, para leis feitas por código de programação pode ter impacto direto no nosso dia a dia e como nos comportamos na sociedade. Smart Contracts passam, assim, a ser a lei, a ter poder legal. E podemos pensar tambem em sistemas mais inteligentes, que podem adequar as leis (agora contratos inteligentes escritos por código), através de um desenvolvimento cíclico de software, autônomo ou não. As ações das pessoas, então, podem ser pautadas de acordo com as leis que passam a ser automáticas (Os autores chamam de Lex Cryptographica em uma Algocratic Governance), onde leis e regulamentações seriam expressas em parte ou totalmente por regras autônomas baseadas em códigos (independente se sistemas inteligentes ou pessoas habilitadas para tal escrevem, testam e inspecionam tais leis ou códigos - feitos em linguagem de programação mesmo). Algum amigo já leu esse livro? Deixe o seu comentário a seguir: Segue links para o livro: Audiobook: https://www.amazon.com/Blockchain-Law... Livro: https://www.amazon.com.br/Blockchain-...

  9. 5 out of 5

    Warren Mcpherson

    Focusing on the technology and it's capabilities, this book takes a philosophical look at implications for society. Assessing the potential for legal and other government action that may follow. One interesting theme of the book is the idea of "lex cryptographica" the potential of for a system of computer code to rule itself independent of intentional human control. The discussion is nicely grounded by reflections on our hopes and fears of the early days of internet and useful ideas of people li Focusing on the technology and it's capabilities, this book takes a philosophical look at implications for society. Assessing the potential for legal and other government action that may follow. One interesting theme of the book is the idea of "lex cryptographica" the potential of for a system of computer code to rule itself independent of intentional human control. The discussion is nicely grounded by reflections on our hopes and fears of the early days of internet and useful ideas of people like Lawrence Lessig. I am generally cautious about the use of the term Blockchain. Often used to obfuscate, the usage seems appropriate here where the discussion is very broad. The introduction of the technology is reasonable. Implications for payment systems are pretty straightforward. Interesting aspects of the potential for contracts and derivatives are raised. There is also discussion of the usage of blockchain technology in information systems. The discussion of implications for organizations and autonomous systems is more speculative but also quite interesting. The book wraps up by looking at options for regulation and the pros and cons of potential approaches. There is also a very insightful reminder that technology can also be a potential tool for the government, not just a challenge. The book is well written, an easy read and brings up some worthwhile and fascinating ideas.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Asani

    Broad but not deep The book touches on a broad range of themes relating to the block chain technology and, as such, is a useful introduction to the topic. It also provides a compendium of media sources and a few journal articles (mostly relating to law). However, you have to look elsewhere to get real insights into what blockchain can or cannot do. This is because the authors do not explain precisely what blockchain is and how it’s different from more traditional ledger technologies. Their descri Broad but not deep The book touches on a broad range of themes relating to the block chain technology and, as such, is a useful introduction to the topic. It also provides a compendium of media sources and a few journal articles (mostly relating to law). However, you have to look elsewhere to get real insights into what blockchain can or cannot do. This is because the authors do not explain precisely what blockchain is and how it’s different from more traditional ledger technologies. Their descriptions of blockchain applications are rather superficial, and often read like a cut-and-paste job. They also take at face value the claims of blockchain’s capabilities. Other than pointing out some of the privacy and legal issues, the authors don’t evaluate the value added of blockchain applications. The authors cite a number of initiatives and projects and fail to mention that there are few successful blockchain commercial applications. Truth is, most applications use blockchain for marketing reasons, just like in the dot com bubble days, companies would add dot com to their names so their stock price would go up.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    Some food for thought, but it's not clear to me whether/why many of the examples given would actually depend upon, or benefit significantly from, blockchain technology in particular. This vagueness isn't helped by the fact that the authors consistently avoid going into technical detail. Still worth a look, if you don't mind writing that is clear but not exactly concise, and almost entirely devoid of personality. (I listened to this as an audiobook at relatively high speed; if you're reading it i Some food for thought, but it's not clear to me whether/why many of the examples given would actually depend upon, or benefit significantly from, blockchain technology in particular. This vagueness isn't helped by the fact that the authors consistently avoid going into technical detail. Still worth a look, if you don't mind writing that is clear but not exactly concise, and almost entirely devoid of personality. (I listened to this as an audiobook at relatively high speed; if you're reading it in print, I recommend allowing yourself some speedreading or skimming, because there's a fair amount of repetition and redundancy.)

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sanjeev

    Nice book. Provided a good overview of the many opportunities and challenges surrounding adoption of Blockchain. One interesting concept that stood out was the immutability of information stored on Blockchains. While that is a benefit when the sharing is desirable, it is a problem when the information needs to be private. For example, the nuclear codes or the physical address of a person getting death threats. I had not considered the latter and that has gotten me thinking.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Interecophil

    Interesting and confusing, this world of code and that of lex cryptographica ... "Decentralized blockchain-based applications may well liberate us from the tyranny of centralized intermediaries and trusted authorities, but this liberation could come at the price of a much larger threat - that of falling under the yoke of the tyranny of code." Interesting and confusing, this world of code and that of lex cryptographica ... "Decentralized blockchain-based applications may well liberate us from the tyranny of centralized intermediaries and trusted authorities, but this liberation could come at the price of a much larger threat - that of falling under the yoke of the tyranny of code."

  14. 5 out of 5

    Emma

    Not always as transparent about the underlying technology as one would hope, but a wealth of blockchain implementation stories that give a deep understanding about the possibilities, the impossibilities and the effects on and of the law.

  15. 4 out of 5

    R.

    Best book on blockchain to date, at least for those looking for something less driven by a narrative.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Bart

    Interesting, well-imagined, -researched and -written, if a touch redundant. Still, the early leader in its field.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Dennis Cahillane

    Clear and lucid writing about blockchains and their societal implications, which is rare.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Eliot

  19. 5 out of 5

    Matt Neely

  20. 5 out of 5

    Michelle Watt

  21. 5 out of 5

    Letícia Melo

  22. 5 out of 5

    Tim Bouma

  23. 5 out of 5

    Alissa Wright

  24. 4 out of 5

    Hesam

  25. 5 out of 5

    Marijo

  26. 4 out of 5

    Osman

  27. 5 out of 5

    Hu Yitien

  28. 4 out of 5

    Alejandro

  29. 5 out of 5

    Erin Corbett

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ccolorado

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