Linux Foundation LogoThe Linux Foundation has launched the Accord Project, under the auspices of the Linux Foundation. The Accord Project is a nonprofit which will build open source code, and documentation. The objective is to maintain a common and consistent legal and technical foundation for contract management.

The Linux Foundation is home to communities that are advancing the world’s most critical software infrastructure,” said Mike Dolan, VP of strategic programs at The Linux Foundation. “The Accord Project represents an opportunity to collaboratively build the framework necessary for the next generation of contracting. Their work is essential in supporting the software that runs our lives.

Mike Dolan
Mike Dolan

The Accord Project

Smart contracts are attractive if they simplify complexities in supply chain management and other contract-heavy areas of technology development. Yet they introduce requirements for interoperability and consistency.

The Accord Project seeks to establish a globally interoperable approach for creating smart contracts which bind legally enforceable natural language text to executable business logic. With an increased focus on enterprise digitisation, adoption of blockchain technologies and the growth of the API economy, the usage of ‘computable agreements’ is increasing. Possessing a common format for ‘computable legal agreements’ is an important cornerstone for future commercial relationships. One of the main purposes of Accord Project is, therefore, to provide a vendor-neutral “.doc” format for smart legal agreements.

The Project will include all the software necessary to author, edit and execute smart legal contracts in a standardised way. Initial supporters (according to the Linux Foundation) include:

  • many of the world’s largest global law firms
  • leading industry bodies, such as the IEEE
  • technology companies, such as DocuSign, IBM and R3.

Smart contract templates

Contract templates comprise three main elements:

  • the Template Grammar (the natural language text for the template)
  • the Template Model (the data model that backs the template)
  • the Logic (the executable business logic for the template).

When combined these three elements enable the editing, analysis, query and execution of templates. In addition, the Accord Project’s approach will not lock smart legal contracts into any particular execution environment or vendor applications. This means that smart legal contract templates will be usable across a wide variety of technologies, including different types of distributed ledgers (or blockchains).

The Project will design templates to:

  • be quick to create, from existing legal contracts
  • simple to execute – through adoption of the Ergo domain specific language.

Ergo aims include:

  • helping legal tech developers write safe ‘computable legal contracts’
  • modularity (reuse of existing contract or clause logic)
  • ensuring safe execution
  • neutrality with respect to blockchain implementation (if one is chosen)
  • formal specification, so that the meaning of contracts is defined, verifiable and preserved during execution.

Dan Selman, co-director of the Accord Project and Chair of its Technology Working Group, noted that “Our goals for the Accord Project are to promote the use of open legal technology, attract a self-sustaining base of contributors, supported by a rigorous governance structure. Linux Foundation has been an excellent steward to scores of open source projects, large and small, over many years. We believe Linux Foundation is the perfect home for Accord Project and look forward to learning from the collective wisdom of the Linux Foundation community and taking advantage of the various services and programs they offer.

Enterprise Times: what does this mean

While the notion of smart contracts has much appeal in principle, blending legality with computer code has proved both frustrating and susceptible to error (think of the DAO debacle). Various initiatives, often sponsored by narrow interest parties and therefore attracting little broad interest, have wrestled with the issues.

The Linux Foundation is plunging into these ‘waters’ (legal and computational). It is in a good position to do this, if there is genuine and active support from a wide base. One early test of the Accord Project will be the number of participants. If at least 10+ international law firms, as many institutions plus at least 25+ firms (technology and major enterprises) have not committed resources to the Accord Project within 90 days, then Enterprise Times will think it will go nowhere. Given the numbers of Linux Foundation’s Hyperledger participants, Enterprise Times does not expect there to be a problem.

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Charles Brett is a business/technology analyst consultant. His specialist areas include enterprise software, blockchain and enterprise mobility tech (including metering). Specific industry sectors of interest and experience include finance (especially systems supporting wholesale finance), telecommunications and energy. Charles has spoken at multiple industry conferences, has written for numerous publications (including the London Times and the Financial Times). He was the General Chair of the bi-annual High Performance Systems Workshop, 2005. In addition he is an author and novelist. His Technology books include: Making the Most of Mobility Vol I (eBook, 2012); Explaining iTunes, iPhones and iPads for Windows Users (eBook, 2011); 5 Axes of Business Application Integration (2004). His published novels, in the Corruption Series, include: The HolyPhone Confessional Crisis, Corruption’s Price: A Spanish Deceit and Virginity Despoiled. The fourth in The Corruption Series - Resurrection - has is now available. Charles has a B.A. and M.A in Modern History from the University of Oxford. He has lived or worked in Italy, Abu Dhabi, South Africa, California and New York, Spain, Israel, Estonia and Cyprus.

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