Since its inception, blockchain has continued to disrupt norms and traditions in many industries. Many professions are doomed to evolve significantly and sometimes even disappear with the deployment and democratization of decentralized blockchain ledger technologies. And among these professions, we find notaries. Focus on the entanglement between notaries and the blockchain.
What is the profession of a notary?
A notary is a public officer, just like a judicial officer for example, one of whose main missions is the drafting and authentication of different acts.
These acts may concern the private sphere – as is the case with a marriage contract – or the professional sphere with the example of a commercial lease. Concretely, the notary authenticates the content of these acts and makes a personal commitment on the quality and date of these, in particular by affixing his seal. In addition, the notary advises the parties concerned on the legal aspects of their commitments and introduces them to the legal terms if necessary: in short, he offers real expertise based on his competence and professional experience.
In 2020, who speaks of certification speaks of blockchain!
If you have followed this correctly, you will understand that one of the notary’s missions therefore akin to content certification (we talk about it here for example). This same mission is one of the major promises of blockchain technologies: allow information to be certified without a trusted third party, through a fully decentralized ecosystem. Indeed, information on blockchain is in fact time-stamped and deemed immutable.
Notaries sensitive to blockchain technologies.
The Chambre des Notaires de Paris has more than 1,700 notaries and 6,000 employees.
He is known to have a particular interest in new technologies, particularly those that can significantly affect the profession. Thus, in 2017, a first forward-looking reflection on decentralized registry technologies was launched. Since then, the chamber has approached many experts in the field and now wants to deploy a blockchain specific to notaries.
They are not the only ones to take a keen interest in blockchain applications for notaries. So we find the giant Fiducial who in partnership with Ethereum and Microsoft, deploys an attachment certification service allowing notaries to verify the accuracy of a document, thereby operating a public network (that of Ethereum).
Back to the chamber of notaries of Paris, and its blockchain. On July 7, 2020, a press kit is published by the chamber and introduced BCN : the notarial blockchain. This document presents the first concrete applications of the notarial blockchain. We thus find the following services:
- The new version of the large file transfer service, allowing the exchange of very heavy computer files between notaries and between notaries and their clients;
- The traceability of the documentation of the electronic Datarooms opened and managed by the notary offices for their clients;
- Deposit of electronic Datarooms in the office electronic safe;
- The traceability of the movements of the shares of unlisted companies (application called the “Register” currently developed via the Paris Chamber of Notaries Innovation Fund).
The will of the Chambre des notaires de Paris is clearly to position notaries as operators necessary for good notarial applications of the blockchain, which then becomes an execution tool for these trusted third parties.
BCN: a highly centralized blockchain
However, a paradox emerges: these decentralized ledger technologies are in essence, approaches aiming at the elimination of all forms of intermediaries and transparent governance. Such exploitation of the blockchain thus questions the real usefulness of this form of network for professions such as notaries.
In addition, as part of the establishment of the NCB, a Governance Committee has been set up. Its function is explicit:
“Ensure compliance with the rules of operation and use of the Notarial BlockChain, specified in an essential reference document, called” Confidence Policy “, and signed by each Chairman.”
We can also cite the description of this Confidence Policy:
Confidence Policy is organized around all the rules making it possible to define the operating principles of Blockhain Notariale and to guarantee the levels of quality and trust expected by the notarial profession and all users of the Blockchain Notarial application. This policy of trust is steered by the Governance Committee.
So, the governance of this blockchain is not decentralized going so far as to question its very relevance. Indeed, one of the advantages of the blockchain lies in its quality of transparency, a central characteristic of public blockchains. Here, the Chamber of Notaries has chosen to work with IBM and Hyperledger, thus deploying an entirely private blockchain. The use of the Hyperledger protocol in fact implies by its nature that access to the network is restricted exclusively to certified and identified actors. One more step towards centralized use of the blockchain for the notarial profession?
The BCN: good or bad idea?
From the foregoing facts, it follows a simple observation: the NCB is subject to several functional inconsistencies relative to the very nature of blockchain technologies. Indeed, this BCN system is extremely centralized and opaque, making the use of a blockchain extremely questionable since trusted third party remain the main and irreplaceable players.
However, it is difficult to form a definitive opinion on the approach adopted by the Chamber of Notaries. It is clear that if her interest in blockchain is absolutely legitimate, this interest could represent an attempt by the profession to voluntarily swim against the tide of blockchain to reassure a profession that ultimately could potentially risk drowning.
However, the future of this same profession will be intrinsically linked to the evolution of blockchain legislation and its democratization within public opinion. Blockchain and notaries are thus brought to evolve in concert.
In any case, the profession is probably not doomed to disappear. The expertise of notaries is so invaluable and irreplaceable that a simple decentralized register will not change it. In addition, as evidenced by this reflection shared on the notaries website, the profession is resolutely moving towards a real dematerialization and digitization of notarial acts, and in this, the blockchain can constitute a strategic support. The real issue of reflection and questioning is therefore to question the capacity of a fully decentralized network to effectively certify information. Opinions are numerous and divided on this subject, and we will soon be doing an article on thecointribune.com specially dedicated to this topic. Indeed, although a blockchain is capable of certifying information, how can we guarantee the veracity of the latter?
Other actors than the Paris Chamber of Notaries
Moreover, as previously mentioned with the example of Fiducial, the chamber of notaries is not the only one interested in these application themes.
For example, the young startup CapBloc offers, among other things, a solution for managing the legal registers of a company using this technology but also a solution for dematerializing the vote of General Meetings. Thus, the blockchain brings to this project an immutable and unalterable time-stamping and signature capacity.
In reality, it is difficult to expect a technology – whose purpose is to collect, for example, sensitive data and documents related to a company – is completely transparent, the need to confidentiality of the same company would then be incompatible. It is currently undeniable that the right format for the evolution of notarial activity in symbiosis with the blockchain is in full definition, thus explaining the emergence of these numerous application attempts and sometimes even more innovative concepts and bold again.
Blockchain and Notariat, what future?
It is still very difficult to define the direction this profession is taking due to the existence of the blockchain. What we can say, however, is that the blockchain will play an important role in the evolution of the profession of notary because it is in the continuity of the dematerialization and the digitization of the notarial activities of which the request for setting up n t has never been stronger than during the health crisis we are currently experiencing. The BCN is witnessing the desire of this business to maintain its character as an irreplaceable trusted third party while potentially taking advantage of certain characteristics of blockchains, technologies which have been booming in recent years. Furthermore, the human expertise of notaries does not seem likely to be called into question by the capacities of blockchains. So, in your opinion, what future for this profession?
Coming from the medical world, I am passionate about cryptocurrencies and blockchain technologies. I am firmly convinced that these technologies will be a real pivotal point in the years to come with regard to the various ethical uprisings relating to data, and more particularly to transparency. I am also a big fan of DeFi. In addition, I am attached to the University of Paris.