end 2008, a person under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto a concept for a new currency. Bitcoin is based on the principle of a distributed network in accounting: the block chain. Soon, however, you could tell that this infrastructure can not only be used for a currency. Theoretically, also the transfer of any other goods will be documented, for example, a certain amount of euros, bonus points or even a car.
When a user, for example, a certain amount of money from, this change has to be checked and confirmed by other participants. This happens in the background by the software. If everything is OK, the new data are permanently stored and disseminated. Manipulation by individuals are significantly more difficult in the model. These and other features have attracted interest for different applications. (Graphic: Theymos / Bitcoin Wiki)
In such transactions, Bitcoin becomes a kind of transportation currency. A small fraction of a digital money unit is pushed over the block chain from user A to user B. The metadata of this transaction will be noted that the same as a car has to change hands.
With the data on the transaction not only such information may be connected, but also program code. So if-then conditions can be formulated. “Smart Contracts” is the technical term. As “smart” are the digital contracts, because of the embedded code monitors whether certain terms of a contract are met and automatically perform certain actions are triggered.
The idea has been around longer and is in a very simple form, for example, behind copy protection mechanisms: When an unauthorized device playback of a movie is denied. With the model of the block chain many new applications now come into consideration.
Off “smart” locks in the apartment, product deliveries or music recovery
Some companies work already on concrete usage scenarios. Sometimes they are based on the public block chain, partly on its own variants with delimited group of users. The Swiss Foundation Ethereum has established its own block Chain version and developed a transport currency, which they called ether. This infrastructure is once again to use companies for applications with “Smart Contracts”.
One of the first users in Germany is Slock.it. The company, headquartered in Saxon Mittweida wants to establish a new form of contracts for the sharing economy. Possessions as bicycle, car or apartment, which can be locked via a “smart” lock, can be rented via block chain. The owner sets a deposit and rent. If the user has paid, he can open on his smartphone Castle. Receipt, use authorization and repayment of the deposit should also be handled over.
Also, US companies Smartcontract.com working on such scenarios and has designed several block chain contract types. For example, supply: the path of a product in the supply chain is monitored by GPS. The money, if the delivery at the destination location is. Even with the search engine optimization of the Treaties will help: The customer pays once an agreed position in the Google hit list is reached. Or the house sale: It is automatically adjusted when the sale in the public land register is confirmed
For the exploitation of copyright, there are also “Smart Contract” scenarios.. In the block chain could for example be the public record of who has what rights to a song and how the proceeds are distributed. After downloading a song, the amount is automatically paid out to participating artists or copyright holders. Companies such as peer tracks and Ujo are already working on such models for the music industry. The British singer Imogen Heap is one of the early users
Hoeren:. Feasible for some contracts, for others to play
The projects however are mostly still in very early stages of development. The idea of Smart Contracts is therefore mainly one thing: the future. Since early January researching Thomas Hoeren, Internet law professor at the University of Münster, with a small team to legal implications of the block chain
He said:. How practical the idea of block chain contracts is actually let himself only reputable judge if the technology is actually used in everyday life. Hoeren can imagine that such contract processing can work in certain areas, however. For this he distinguishes between different types of contract.
In the first case state basic documents involved in the transactions in question, such as the land register, the commercial register or identity papers. Here Hoeren sees little chance for block chain process: “This is only possible if the government says we do in the block chain with”.
There are contracts in which between the parties, a third party occurs, the trust both. They require legally a certain form, but modified to quite do also distributed digitally could: “All operations in which a trusted third party is between a transaction, could be handled also by block chain through the crowd.” This concerns, for example, notarial purchase contracts.
Third, there are contracts that are also more informally, such as when a car sold or an apartment is rented. This lent themselves well to block chain process. . If at least a simple written form is prescribed, could be described as the digital equivalent introduce a block chain logging so Hoeren
Additional Questions: Security and legitimacy
cause for concern Hoeren but the issue of security in “smart” contracts. Although applies the block chain so far as forgery and tamper resistant, but is IT security just always a dynamic component. Therefore put lawyers in doubt most of the written form and a central authority. Because if the land register of a state does not work, another was no longer working well much
And for Hoeren arises when the bypass central authority also democracy. Question: “State authority is democratically legitimized. If formerly state processes are shifted to the block chain, they would be delegated to a group without any democratic legitimacy. “We must also discuss whether this could possibly lead to anti-democratic developments.