In a landmark decision, China’s highest court has ruled that any information stored on the blockchain counts as valid, legal evidence.
As per the South China Morning Post, all internet courts must now follow this new decision. Internet courts were established in China to handle all internet-related legal disputes. However, now digital data stored on the blockchain counts as legal evidence and will likely be seen as more valid than other digital evidence. With the use of timestamps and digital signatures, the decision represents yet another acceptance of blockchain technology in shaping Chinese civil society.
The ruling sets a new precedent in the country, but was not surprising. China’s internet court in the city of Hangzhou in Zhejian Province ruled just three months ago the same decision regarding blockchain-related evidence. Although China’s Supreme Court is the highest legal jurisdiction in the world to make such a claim regarding blockchain technology, it is not the first: two years ago, Vermont in the United States signed a related bill verifying the authenticity of blockchain as legal precedent.
Internet courts are still new in China however, The first one was just established in just August of 2017 in the aforementioned city of Hangzhou and has since seen some 10,000 disputes from defamation to questions of ownership.
Although courts generally have relied on third-party evidence as legally binding, this decision by the Supreme Court of China is a first. As a method of verification, blockchain technology is seen as “secure, efficient, convenient, and low in cost.”
China just opened its second internet court this past Sunday in Beijing. The country plans to open yet another one in Guangzhou by the end of this month. All litigants involved in these internet courts must attend the hearings via a video stream and much of the information is solely relayed digitally. The expansion of China’s internet courts seems to indicate that there are growing litigation problems concerning internet usage in the country as of late. Blockchain arguably provides a textbook solution to questions of ownership and verification issues in a space where it is so difficult to determine authenticity.
With the acceptance of blockchain as legally-binding, there are expectations for other countries to follow with their own decision. However, China is also one of the leaders in blockchain-related patents and development, so it would be expected that their highest court would rule on this first. It indicates that China is consciously trying to position itself as the foremost leader of this new emerging technological space.