The Stanford Computable Contracts Initiative

posted in Contract Management

Smarter Rules, Better Contracts

The Stanford Computable Contracts Initiative (SCCI) develops an online platform and repository of standards that will help move the world from natural language based contracts toward a world of computable contracts.

A computable contract is a contractual obligation that has been formulated such that a computer system can both interpret and determine whether the obligation has been complied with. Such computable contractual obligations offer advantages over traditional written obligations, including efficiency of compliance assessment, and detection of contradictory legal obligations.logo_codex_gold

The SCCI platform will enable users to create contracts in computable form. When terms and conditions are represented in highly-structured data, computers are able to process them automatically with a guaranteed degree of accuracy. The effect is not only a significant reduction of legal transaction costs, but it also opens a variety of new options to create better contracts.

Background

The conventional view is that the automation of contract creation, monitoring and compliance is beyond the capabilities of today’s technologies. This view results from the fact that throughout history contracts and the circumstances surrounding them have been expressed and interpreted by means of natural language

However, contracting parties are largely in control of both the substance and the form of their contractual obligations, and now – in light of the advances in the field of explicit representation of legal rules parties have the freedom to use new types of contracts to express and execute their agreements. In some industries, such as trading on financial markets, companies already express core terms of their contracts not as written words on paper, but as computable data records.

Stanford Computable Contracts Initiative (SCCI) – The New Frontier of Computable Law

In order for parties to take advantage of the analytical capabilities of computers for their contracts, they need to express their contractual rights and obligations in a form that computers can understand. The SCCI project is working towards building a collaborative platform that helps organizations and individuals express agreements that were traditionally entirely natural language-based in computable form.

The platform offers collaborative tools for the entire contract management process. One of the key challenges as well as opportunities is to determine to what extent computers can automatically enforce obligations of the contract.

SCCI’s ultimate goal is to create a non-profit platform for computable contracts that can be used by all stakeholders in the contract management process, including individual parties, lawyers, contract managers, software vendors, governments, codification projects, and others.

The benefits will – among other things – include lower transaction costs in contracting, more transparency of contracts, deeper analysis of contract obligations, improved risk control, and overall a more even playing field for contracting parties.