Exploring the admissibility of cryptographic digital signatures created with the key pair also used for a public blockchain address
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Blockchain Digital Signatures Mock Trial

Mock Trial Landing Page: https://mocktrial.github.io/BlockchainDigitalSignatures-2017

law.MIT.edu and Massachusetts Legal Hackers are planning a mock trial event to explore admissibility of digital signatures executed using the same cryptographic key pair used with a public blockchain address.

We plan to include more issues as part of a broader mock trial event planned for the fall of 2017 in collaboration with partners in the fields of law (including a law school and bar association) and technology (including blockchain and UI/UX). However, the event on July 12th will be narrowly focused upon exploring the steps required to lay the legal foundation necessary for blockchan-backed digital signatures to be properly admissible as evidence.

For a high level overview about mock trials, including how to enter evidence under the rules of procedure, check out our Links and Resources Wiki Page.

Scope of Focus: Admissibility of Evidence

The scope is narrowly focused on laying a proper foundation to admit a digital signature into evidence as part of a contract breach case. The idea is to postulate a case deliberately designed to be as routine as possible, other than the twist that a blockchain-backed cryptographic digital signature was used to execute the contract.

Legal Scope

Legal issues will include articulating and managing the steps needed to:

  • Verify a digital signature executed with the same cryptographic keys used with a public blockchain address; and
  • Establish a digital record has not changed since a hash of the file was entered onto a blockchain.

Technical Scope

Technical issues will include having working code and other resources needed to:

  • Generate digital signatures on files using a key pair also associated with a public blockchain address and that more than one person involved in the mock trial is capable of installing, configuring and running from scratch;
  • Verify the digital signatures (ie: using the signed file, the public key associated with the private key used to sign the file and the hash digest of the file), an online blockchain explorer and other resources needed to adequately "prove" reasonable reliance upon the authenticity, provenance, integrity, genuinesss etc of assertions, data, files, records or other evidence.

Contextual Scope

Contextual issues will include:

  • Providing enough context about the broader postulated legal scenario so everybody is comfortable picking up at the point in the litigation when one party is attempting to enter the digital signatures into evidence without triggering the need to litigate broader facts and circumstances the relationships, transactions and other aspects of the scenario giving rise to the digital signatures in question; and
  • Succeffully focusing upon the question, answers and other factors needed to make the case these signatures are admissible, including attention to available objections from the opposing party and other legal or practical issues that may arise without having to refer to broader sets of rules (eg procedural or substantive law and other factors impacting impacting enforceability or other legal issues).

Practical Scope

Practical issues will include:

  • Crafting accurate yet highly simplified and streamlined phrases and precisely defined words appropriate to the task of laying an evidentiary foundation for admissibility of this type of evidence; and
  • Developing a laptop driven projection and/or other props capable of visually articulating the key point in an generally understandable, legally permissable and tactically effective manner.

Background Links

MIT Open Research Project

MIT Legal Hackers Research Project on Blockchain-Backed Cryptographic Digital Signatures:

MIT Open Source Code

MIT Prototype Open Source Code for Executing Blockchain-Backed Cryptographic Digital Signatures:

Legal Hackers Meetups

Massachusetts Legal Hackers Project on Legal Standing of Blockchain-Backed Cryptographic Digital Signatures:


  • More information coming soon


  • More information coming soon