Information Law & Policy Project

The New Zealand Law Foundation is co-ordinating an Information Law & Policy Project with a focus on “Adapting New Zealand Law for the Information Age”. 

This page contains information on two projects being led by Dr James Every-Palmer QC.  

Smart contracts and the digitalisation of the law

This project looks at current work on smart contracts (that is, contracts that run as computer code) and consider whether this work has application to the way that legislation is drafted and accessed.  For example, could formal programming languages be designed to represent legislation in a way that would facilitate automated testing, processing and reasoning? 


Background materials

Artificial Intelligence and Legal Merit Arguments, D.Phil Thesis, December 1997

Trevor I Kiviat “Beyond Bitcoin: Issues in Regulating Blockchain Transactions” (2015).  What are the economic properties of blockchain-based currency and how can they be harnessed for more efficient digital asset transfers?   

Jerry Brito and others “Bitcoin financial regulation: securities, derivatives, prediction markets and gambling” (2014).  How are regulators likely to respond to bitcoin-based financial transactions?   

Legalese is an open-source project to draft legal documents in the same way that programmers develop software. 

Ethereum is a platform for generalising blockchain technology to create a financial computing platform based on smart contract functionality.   

Stanford Computable Contracts Project.  This is a project to develop a contract definition language that will allow terms and conditions to be represented in a machine-understandable way.

Richard Susskind Tomorrow’s Lawyers: An Introduction to Your Future (2nd ed, 2017, OUP).  This book is about the future of legal services, in which there are likely to be online courts, AI-based global legal business, liberalised markets, commoditisation and outsourcing, internet-based simulated practice, and new legal jobs.

Richard Susskind and Daniel Susskind The Future of the Professions (2015, OUP).  This book explains how professions are likely to decline and what is likely to replace them.

Regulation of new technology: Institutions and processes

This project starts from the premise that the stream of new technologies and business models that we have faced over the last couple of years (drones, bitcoin, Uber, Airbnb, autonomous vehicles etc) will continue to accelerate.  The project will not try and solve the issues raised by any particular technology, but will ask whether there are any overarching lessons that can be learnt about the appropriate institutions and processes for accommodating such technologies.

Background materials

Oxford Handbook of Regulation (2010), Edited by Robert Baldwin, Martin Cave, and Martin Lodge

Roger Brownsword and Morag Goodwin “Law and the Technologies of the Twenty-First Century” (2012)

Matthew Wansley “Regulation of emerging risks” (2015). How should new and potentially harmful technologies such as e-cigarettes, fracking and autonomous vehicles should be regulated? 

Vanessa Katz “Regulating the sharing economy” (2015).  What are the regulatory issues in the sharing economy raised by Uber and Airbnb and similar platforms?

Rotem Medzini “Prometheus Bound: An historical content analysis of information regulation in Facebook” (2016).  What are Facebook’s privacy policies and how they are subject to regulation? 

Swaroop Poudel “Internet of things: underlying technologies, interoperability and threats to privacy and security” (2016).   What is the best regulatory response to threats to privacy and security arising from increasing consumer dependency on devices connected to the “Internet of Things”? 

Drew Simshaw, Nicolas Terry, Kris Hauser and Mary Cummings “Regulating healthcare robots: maximizing opportunities while minimizing risks” (2016).  What are health consumers’ rights to safety and privacy in the context of increasing use of health-related robots and medical devices? 

Rachel Finn and Kush Wadhwa “The ethics of smart advertising and regulatory initiatives in the consumer intelligence industry” (2014).  How should targeted advertising based on online behaviour tracking be regulated?  

Jessica S Brodsky “Autonomous vehicle regulation: how an uncertain legal landscape may hit the brakes on self-driving cars” (2016).  Are existing legal frameworks for imposing liability adequate to address issues arising from the use of self-driving cars? 

James Beck and Matthew Jacobson “3D Printing: What could happen to products liability when users (and everyone else in between) become manufacturers” (2017).  How do concepts of tortious liability apply to situations where a defective product has been produced by a 3D printer?  

Daithi Mac Sithigh “App Law Within: Rights and Regulation in the Smartphone Age” (2012).  What degree of market power does Apple possess by controlling content on its app store, and how is this currently regulated? 

Other ILAPP projects

Researchers at the University of Otago are working on a project to investigate how artificial intelligence might impact on criminal justice and employment law.  Details are available here

Michael Cameron, Solicitor at the Department of Corrections is working on a project to investigate the use of autonomous vehicles in New Zealand and how the law should be reformed to ensure these vehicles are used safely and successfully.  Details are available here.

Associate Professor Alex Sims of the University of Auckland is undertaking a research project into the regulation of digital currencies that use blockchain regulation.  Details are available here