Legal Personality for DAOs and Smart Contracts: What is in it for me, as a developer?

DAOs, Smart Contracts and… Who? Me!?

Earlier this year I and Dr. Max Ganado listed several reasons (see our paper  Legal Personality for Blockchains, DAOs and Smart Contracts) why recognising “Legal Personality” to so-called Innovative Technology Arrangements (ITAs) makes a lot of sense. (Note: An Innovative Technology Arrangement is a generic term used in the Maltese Blockchain Laws that encompasses blockchain/dlt platforms, smart contracts, DAOs, AI and other technologies that share the traits of autonomy and at times even self-sufficiency).

The idea of legal personality for ITAs is firstly received with a lot of skepticism. Lawyers, politicians, businessmen, policy makers, corporate service providers and in general those engaged in the business side of things have a number of reservations. Likewise, software engineers, open source proponents, technologists, and all those driven by the ideals of decentralized power are also skeptical about the idea. We listed a dozen arguments. While some of them might seem very abstract, academic and remote, there are very practical practical and important motivations that need to be appreciated.

But it is only when you are touched directly, in person, that you might relate to the significance of those arguments.

Malta Blockchain Regulation Proposal: Legal Personality for DAOs and Smart Contracts

UPDATE 2018-05-31: This blog post has been revised and extended into an article: Legal Personality for Blockchains, DAOs and Smart Contracts (PDF), published by RTDF, 1-2018, p. 39, Corporate Finance and Capital Markets Review, Thomson Reuters Transactive.

Technology Arrangements

On March 2, 2018, the Blockchain Malta Association hosted an event entitled “Reflections on the DLT Regulation.” A number of lawyers and industry experts were invited to debate the consultation document issued by the Government of Malta and wherein the country’s intention to regulate the sector was presented. The consultation document proposed three new bills, which cover a broad range of issues.

The second of the three bills is about “Technology Arrangements and Service Providers” (TAS Bill). It is understood that the term “technology arrangement” was chosen to leave space in the future to cover not only Blockchain and Distributed Ledger Technologies, but also other “arrangements” such as Artificial Intelligence and Internet of Things.

Malta’s National Blockchain Strategy: The Big Picture

In my earlier post Malta the Blockchain Island: The Story so Far I described the sequence of events that led to Malta to announce a legal framework governing Blockchain technologies; and that it was all guided by an overarching National Blockchain Strategy. In this post, I will highlight what thinking actually drove me to create and design that strategy.

The ideas underpinning the strategy can be visualized as follows:


Let’s look at each element in more detail.

Blockchain: Malta Announces a Legal Framework

On February 16, 2018, the Government of Malta announced a consultation document on “The Establishment of the Malta Digital Innovation Authority; the Framework for the Certification of Distributed Ledger Technology Platforms and Related Service Providers; and a Virtual Currency Act.” The consultation period will close on March 9, 2018. Then the proposed bills will go to Parliament to become effective laws/regulations.