Italy never stops to amaze me. It is what we Italians call “genio e sregolatezza” – genius and insanity.
It is a country which has produced talents and excellence since the Roman times in many areas and still does. Italian artists, products, style, and technology are known, appreciated, sought after and often imitated worldwide.
It is a country full of talents which could still lead in the world in many ways, but it is chronically plagued by internal conflicts, self-interest and lack of leadership. This makes it very hard for Italian businesses to compete internationally and many young Italian talents are compelled to leave “il bel paese” to look for better opportunities abroad. We know this all too well.
With Blockchain technology it was not different. For years, when the rest of the world was already salivating at the opportunities that blockchains could offer, this was hardly a hot topic in Italy.
Then – mainly in the last 18 months – it seems that Italy has suddenly woken up to the opportunities that DLTs can bring in the future.
Surprisingly, also the politicians have been fast in taking some steps in the direction of technology adoption.
Last September the Ministry of Economic Development selected a group of 30 Italian experts who have volunteered (strictly unpaid) to contribute to shaping the future blockchain policies of the new government.
Then – this January – came the Italian stroke of genius. The Senate has proposed to introduce an important modification to an existing Legislative Decree which was aimed at cutting down administrative red-tape.
The proposal is to recognize the legal enforceability of both Smart Contracts and DLTs time-stamping.
This legislative amendment may well make Italy the first country in the EU and – as far as I am aware worldwide – to practically equate a Smart Contract to a written contract, thereby recognizing Smart Contracts digital format as being equal to the written format (Art. 8bis § 2). Under §3 then, DLTs time-stamping will be recognized under Art. 41 of EU Regulation 910/2014 (Legal effects of electronic time-stamps).
It is not clear whether the effects of that are to simply qualify DLT time-stamping as legally enforceable in legal proceedings or to extend them the features of “qualified time stamps” under Art 42 of the same EU Regulation.
Meaning that DLTs would have the capability of binding together time, date and data because they are “signed using an advanced electronic signature or sealed with an advanced electronic seal of the qualified trust service provider, or by some equivalent method”.
I would personally advocate the latter interpretation – because of the tech features of DLTs – which would practically mean that the whole block of data, time and date will be bound together in a legally enforceable certification (and not only the date). But we have to wait and see which position the Commission will take on that.
If the legislative amendment is passed, the AGID (Italian Digital Agency) will have to set the technical specifications for the application of the law.
It remains to be seen if “the stroke of genius” becomes a law in the short time. This is however a remarkable step in the right direction.