Blockchains, Trust and Land Administration – The Return of Historical Provenance
(2017) 6 Property Law Review 180
30 Pages Posted: 21 Feb 2019
Date Written: 2017
Electronic Conveyancing is here. But how will it evolve with the development of blockchains being touted as one means by which fraud in relation to land can be minimised, if not eliminated? With centralised land registries requiring expensive risk minimisation strategies such as a government-funded assurance fund, or the taking out of private title insurance, can blockchains provide a systemic level of security that can improve the land titles system, and lessen the need for other forms of risk minimisation? Advocates of blockchain technology are high on hyperbole with what it can offer to support smart transaction types in a number of fields. For others, blockchains have no great advantage when applied to physical assets such as real property, and is limited in its utility.
This article seeks to advance the discussion, particularly in the context of land administration. Against a backdrop of fraud occurring in title by registration systems, we explain what blockchain technology is, before testing its validity by outlining four common fraud scenarios within land administration, and asking whether blockchain technology would have eliminated the frauds in question. Our findings are that in two of the scenarios, blockchains would have prevented the fraud; but in the other two, blockchains would have had no influence. In addition, we also note some of the known unknowns that will need to be resolved prior to any enactment of a blockchain solution. Our conclusion will be that where the process leading to registration is in some way unreliable, blockchains may offer some advantages. However, once the entry of the transaction is registered, blockchains can play no role in testing or checking the veracity of that entry.
Keywords: blockchain land registries, need for credibility, torrens issues and challanges
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