The Estonian e-Residency program in collaboration with BITNATION are launching a new Public Notary using Blockchain technology to e-Residents valid in ‘blockchain jurisdiction’.
The World Blockchain media outlet, Cointelegraph, investigated what is at the roots of this project.
According to the announcement, starting December 1, 2015, the e-Residency program and BITNATION new public notary service will be available for Estonian e-residents, “regardless of where they live or do business, they will be able to notarize their marriages, birth certificates, business contracts, and much more on the blockchain”.
“We’re truly living in exciting times when nation states and virtual nations compete and collaborate with each other on an international market, to provide better governance services,” said Kaspar Korjus, e-Residency Program Director and partner of Bitnation in Estonia.
Unique project meets Blockchain
BITNATION is already providing DIY Governance Services and citizenship ID, as well as marriage, land titles, birth certificates on the blockchain. Moreover, it runs a Refugee Emergency Response program to help resolve the current refugee crisis in Europe by registering undocumented individuals on the blockchain. BITNATION Founder, Susanne Tarkowski Tempelhof commented the launch of Public Notary using Blockchain to the Cointelegraph:
“Estonia offers e-Residency, 'digital citizenship' to people around the world. They can use that to access some of Estonia's services, like corporate incorporation, for instance. We expand the number of services they can offer for their e-Residents who are not physically based in Estonia.”
On December 1st, 2014, the Estonian government-backed initiative of e-Residency was officially launched so people from all over the world could apply for the e-Residency program and receive advantages of authenticated online identity along with a smart ID-card issued by Estonian Police and Border Guard Board. ID-card uses open-source public key-private key encryption, “which allows government agencies to perform various secure functions online connected with a citizen's identity”.
Kaspar Korjus commented:
“It is going to use only digital authentication which means that person x who claims to be person x actually is person x. And that is legal everywhere in the EU. E-Residency is a platform and every service provider can use that authentication to let e-residents login. What e-Residency auth adds is the certainty that these people where those who they claimed to be.”
According to the official press release, users must remember that:
“The BITNATION Public Notary is not valid in any jurisdiction except in ‘blockchain jurisdiction’. If a couple get married on the Public Notary, it doesn’t mean they get married in the jurisdiction of Estonia, or in any other nation state jurisdiction. Instead, they get married in the ‘blockchain jurisdiction’."
"However, this public notary could be used in court as evidence or proof that contracts on the blockchain are legally binding, similarly as “courts around use contractual agreements as binding, even through technologies that are a lot less secure than the blockchain, such as emails, or even verbal agreements,” said Susanne Tarkowski Tempelhof.
Cointelegraph turned to Adam Vaziri, a tech-lawyer, to find out about legal power of this new initiative. He noted that becoming an e-resident does not confer any citizenship rights whatsoever in Estonia. He commented:
“The e-Residency programme is an identity verification export service provided by the Estonian government (e-ID). To be clear the contract that Bitnation is validating is NOT the Civil Institution of marriage, which of course has local formalities attached, but is a private contract between two persons (akin to a Pre-Nuptial Agreement). It is a private contract between two persons with e-IDs, executed with electronic signatures and authenticated with the Bitnation service (i.e. adding the hash of the executed contract on the blockchain).”
“Note in common law jurisdictions contracts can be legally binding without the formality of them being in writing and/or on paper. There simply needs to be an offer, acceptance and consideration between the parties (UK example),” explained Adam Vaziri.
“When you buy apples from a foodstall it is legally binding without it necessarily being in writing. That said, local laws may ‘reserve’ certain categories of contracts and necessitate them to be (this is not an exhaustive list):
- In writing for them to be legally binding (in the UK you cannot sell land without the contract being in writing); and/or
- Signed in the presence of a Notary Public (in Roman law jurisdictions the transfer of shares requires, for instance, the presence of a Notary Public to witness the execution of the contract for it to be legally binding).
The next question is whether a contract can be legally binding in writing but only exist in an electronic form; this depends on the recognition of electronic signatures (which varies from country to country) and whether the particular contract is ‘reserved’ in the way indicated above.”
He then continues:
“Assuming the contract is not ‘reserved’ as indicated above, the use of e-ID, electronic signatures and Bitnation validation services (hashing) makes the existence of the contract ‘immutable’, content of the contract definitive and the execution of it almost undisputable.”