Dear Notary, Are Your Services Getting Old?br>
Notaries—the undeniably integral entities intertwined deeply with any and all legal affairs. We all know the drill. You show up in person, you pay a fee, you make some signatures, you get a seal on your legal document and you’re good to go, right?
But, what if I told you there’s a more modern concept which could, in time, alleviate the tiresome practice of dealing with notaries in person and possibly replace the tedious aspects of the service?
A Logistics and Bookkeeping Nightmare
The obstruction becomes clear when finding a notary and making a physical appearance—which often comes at the hefty expense of consuming both personal and work time. A notary may represent a traditional intermediary to identify authorship, confirm signatures, prevent fraud, issue affidavits and subpoenas. However, depending on the complexity of the documents, some waiting time is needed before obtaining proper notarization, which can take hours, days or even weeks.
As we all know too well, notarizing documents can be a lengthy process and there is a lot of paperwork to keep track of. Taking a more modern, digital approach with the right technology in place for managing file storage as well as guaranteeing document security and protection would be a big step in the right direction, but what technology would that be?
Welcome to the Digital Era
The answer is blockchain—a decentralized digital ledger which keeps records in an immutable database, while remaining easily accessible and verifiable to the public. Blockchain has the ability to eradicate bookkeeping processes and instead offer a more systemized, secure and paperless log-keeping alternative.
One of the most important features of this technology is its ability to precisely record all recorded data, making it a serviceable implementation to the legal process. the exact time, date as well as location (among other details) and store it safely encrypted inside a practically impenetrable, decentralized network of computers.
Blockchain and the Legal System
Dates and timestamps are critical aspects in all types of legal disputes, and with blockchain, all data is kept neatly in order and given a specific hash as a unique identifier so it’s impossible to confuse it with some other data. This intrinsic property of the technology is a huge advantage and is one reason that it can be easily adapted to the legal system.
In fact, several countries have already begun recognizing and accepting data recorded in blockchain as legal evidence in court cases. The US, Italy, France and of course China have all entered the digital era of blockchain adoption, with the latter frontrunning implementation.
In September of 2018, Chinese Internet courts accepted evidence brought forward in a copyright infringement case which had been recorded in blockchain, making it the very first case where blockchain evidence was directly used in a court of law. As an aside, the ruling a few months later was in favor of the plaintiff who brought forth the blockchain evidence.
Combining Groundbreaking Technologies
Coming back to its use in notary processes, there is another tool which perfectly meshes with blockchain that could significantly change the game. If notaries are to become fully digital one day, they’ll need to utilize smart contracts—digitally automated contracts that ensure all conditions between two or more parties are met unconditionally prior to execution of the agreement.
Smart contracts can be customly programmed and built on top of the blockchain infrastructure where all executed actions are automatically recorded in the distributed ledger. Let’s say, for example, a smart contract is designed to function as a mediary in the selling of a property. Conditions can be set so that when the money from the buyer enters a specified account, the deed to the home is transferred to the buyer automatically and simultaneously, while this transaction details are all recorded in blockchain so it remains traceable and unchangeable.
The possibilities with combining these two innovative technologies are seemingly endless and their benefits are still being discovered. When it comes to the processes that require in-person trips to the notary, I believe blockchain, with the help of smart contracts, will redesign the entire procedure, and some organizations are already working on this very solution.
Even big-name companies like IGN and HSBC have already started combining their services with blockchain. IGN bank, for one, combines notary and blockchain into one for more secure and transparent transactions. It’s just a matter of time before you may be using blockchain to get your next document notarized.
For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been communicating the news of our new IP protection tool—Digital Proof. I’m glad to say the responses, mainly from lawyers, have been predominantly positive and people are open to the idea of adding a sense of digital protection to complicated legal procedures.