Under Italian law a document saved through blockchain technologies can have legal effects.
According to Law Decree 135/2018 (Decreto Semplificazioni), which was recently confirmed into law by Law 12/2019, technologies based on distributed records can have the same legal effects as electronic time stamps under section 41 of EU Regulation 910/2014. Such effects will be obtained if certain technical standards are met; the regulatory body Agenzia per l’Italia Digitale is entrusted with the task of setting forth such standards within 90 days.
Technologies based on distributed records are defined as “technologies and information protocols that use a shared register that is distributed, replicable, simultaneously accessible, architectural decentralized on cryptographic basis, such as to allow the recording, validation, updating and archiving of data both in accessible format and further protected by cryptography verified by each member, not alterable and not modifiable.” The scope of the definition is wide and intends to include blockchain technologies, which can vary.
Similarly, technologies based on distributed records will also allow so-called “smart contracts” to have legal effects. Smart contracts will be presumed to have legal effects when the contractual parties have been previously identified on the basis of technologies based on distributed records. Again, details will be determined by the Agenzia per l’Italia Digitale.
Italy’s effort to pioneer the embrace of new technologies in the legal field is commendable, but there is a risk that standards set forth by the Agenzia will not be the same as other national or international standards that may be emerging in the near future.