Contract Law 2.0: «Smart» Contracts As the Beginning of the End of Classic Contract Law

24 Pages Posted: 14 Dec 2016

See all articles by Alexander Savelyev

Alexander Savelyev

National Research University Higher School of Economics (Moscow)

Date Written: December 14, 2016


The paper analyzes legal issues associated with application of existing contract law provisions to so-called Smart contracts, defined in the paper as “agreements existing in the form of software code implemented on the Blockchain platform, which ensures autonomy and self-executive nature of Smart contract terms based on predetermined set of factors”.

The paper consists of several sections. In the first section, the paper outlines peculiarities of Blockchain technology as currently implemented in Bitcoin cryptocurrency and which forms the core of Smart contracts. In the second section, the main characteristic features of Smart contracts are described. Finally, the paper outlines key tensions between classic contract law and Smart contracts..

The conclusion section sets the core question for analysis of the perspectives of implementation of this technology by governments: “How to align the powers of the government with Blockchain if there is no central authority but only distributed technologies”. The author suggests two solutions, which are not optimal:

1) providing the state authorities with the status of a Superuser with extra powers and,

2) relying on traditional remedies and enforcement practices, by pursuing specific individuals – parties to Smart contract - in offline mode.

It is emphasized that those jurisdictions, which have the most Blockchain-friendly regulations will have competitive advantage in attraction of new innovative business models and companies willing to exploit them in a legal way.

Keywords: Contract, Obligation, Blockchain, Bitcoin, Smart contract

JEL Classification: Z

Suggested Citation

Savelyev, Alexander, Contract Law 2.0: «Smart» Contracts As the Beginning of the End of Classic Contract Law (December 14, 2016). Higher School of Economics Research Paper No. WP BRP 71/LAW/2016, Available at SSRN: or

Alexander Savelyev (Contact Author)

National Research University Higher School of Economics (Moscow) ( email )

Myasnitskaya street, 20
Moscow, Moscow 119017

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