British Standards Institute Opens Smart Legal Contracts Specification for Public Contribution

In a milestone development, the British Standards Institution (BSI) has opened the consultation phase for public contributions to an open specification for smart legal contracts – PAS 333 Smart Legal Contracts – Specification. BSI is the world’s first national standards body and is appointed by the government as the UK’s national standards body under Royal Charter. It works closely with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and the European Standards Organizations (CEN, CENELEC, and ETSI). 

The technical specification is embodied in the British Standards Institution’s Publicly Available Specification (PAS) 333. The PAS sets out requirements to develop functional elements for use within a smart legal contract. The PAS is currently out for public comment. Individuals and organizations are invited to read and comment on the PAS on BSI’s web portal.

PAS 333 aims to define the specification for legal contracts that are both human-readable and machine-readable, provide a technical and technology-agnostic foundation for the development of software using smart legal contracts, and provide industry with a framework within which new or existing contracts can be digitized and connected to IT systems and data services. The specification would be a key step in creating a common representation of a legal contract that is abstracted away from any underlying technology and flexible enough to be applicable to current and future DLTs and tools. 

For the Hyperledger community, this could lead to the development of a universal, technology agnostic, implementation of a “smart legal contract” or “smart agreement” that can be executed across distributed ledger architectures within the Hyperledger greenhouse and outside. The PAS will assist in providing a common framework and foundation for building smart legal agreements that not only meet the needs of legally enforceable agreements but interface with all of the existing – and future – open source technology within Hyperledger. For example, a user could build a legal agreement that operates the same on Fabric or Besu, as well as integrating with Indy, and interfacing with DSLs such as DAML, Ergo, and Solidity as well as general purpose high-level languages. 

In the UK, the Law Tech Delivery Panel’s Legal recently published the Legal Statement on Cryptoassets and Smart Contracts. While the smart contract and crypto asset markets are seeing significant growth, their legal uncertainty is often cited as the most common barrier to adoption, investment, and development. The landmark statement addressed legal uncertainty by recognizing crypto assets as tradable property and smart contracts as enforceable agreements under English law. Public consultation of the PAS therefore follows the development, consultation, and publication of the Legal Statement in November 2019.

The Accord Project – a Hyperledger associate member and fellow Linux Foundation project – assisted in the development of the Legal Statement and is now sponsoring a technical specification as a complementary component of the development of a joint techno-legal framework. The Accord Project aims to help by providing a reference implementation of the PAS when complete. 

The PAS is now available for public consultation, after which it will undergo further panel review before being published as a BSI specification for smart legal contracts. To comment, first register an account with BSI in two easy steps. Next, click through ‘Read and draft comment’ at the bottom of the PAS page, after which you will be taken into the document and be able to add your comments to each section. If you need assistance in this process, please contact BSI here or consult the user guide. Comments are open until 23.00 GMT on May 4th 2020. 

We invite everyone in the Hyperledger community and beyond to participate in the public consultation stage and contribute to the development of the PAS. All industries and stakeholders stand to benefit from the PAS’ development and implementation. You can read more about the consultation on the Accord Project blog.

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