After their establishment, three Internet courts in China have built their own blockchain platforms to serve the use of electronic evidence in litigation. They also regard these platforms as their proudest performance.
Why are they so keen on this?
1. Starting with an imaginary but fact-based scene
One day, you find your copyrighted photographs have been sold online to many people by a photo sales website without your permission.
You intend to sue the website in court, so you save the sales webpage of your works to your computer and print it out at the same time.
When you appear in court, you find that the website has deleted this page and refuses to acknowledge its sales of your works.
You submit to the court the said webpage that you saved on your computer and the hard copies thereto. However, the defendant challenges the authenticity of your evidence. The court can’t tell whether the electronic evidence you submitted and the printed copies thereto are authentic and untampered with.
You intend to have an expert appraiser to verify the authenticity of the electronic records, however, the expert fee is CNY 3,000 (around USD 430), as much as your intended claim. After calculating the cost, you give up the appraisal.
Not surprisingly, you lose the case.
This website sells your works again.
Becoming smarter this time, you engage a notary office and ask them to notarize the sales webpage to prove that the website was indeed selling your photos.
The notary office says that they would also charge CNY 3,000 for notarization. It’s too expensive for you. So, you’re going to drop the claim.
And just then, you bump into the blockchain platform provided by the Internet Court.
You submit these webpages to the platform which captures these webpages and saves them on the blockchain platform, costing you only a dozen yuan.
Then you bring a lawsuit with the court and provide the court with the webpage you saved, and inform the court that the page is also saved on the blockchain platform. After review, the court confirms that the electronic evidence submitted by you is consistent with the electronic data stored on the platform. The court reviews the entire process of generating, storing, disseminating and using electronic data on the platform and deems it credible. The defendant does not challenge your evidence either. So, the court admits the evidence and rules on your favor.
This story, in fact, shows the problems encountered by almost all parties when using electronic evidence. That is, the use of electronic evidence in the form of notarization or appraisal is so expensive that many parties have to drop their claims.
In Internet courts, the evidence submitted by the parties is almost all electronic evidence. If each evidence must be notarized or appraised, many parties will probably give up litigation and cannot resort to Internet courts.
In order to solve these problems and to lighten the burden of the court in examining electronic evidence, Internet courts have begun to build blockchain platforms one after another.
These platforms not only provide options for the parties at affordable prices, but also makes the collection, storage, dissemination and use of electronic evidence on the platform less challenged in court and more easily admitted by judges.
Our contributor, Dr. Li Xiaokai (李小恺), has written articles on the use of blockchain technology and electronic evidence in greater detail. He is the leading expert in the field of electronic evidence in China.
2. Blockchain platform of Internet courts
In September 2018, the Supreme People’s Court (SPC) of China promulgated a regulation on Internet courts, allowing parties to submit electronic evidence certified by blockchain technology or electronic evidence collection platform. The courts will confirm the authenticity of electronic evidence by examining the credibility of the process of electronic data generation, collection, storage and transmission.
After the promulgation of this regulation, three Internet courts have built their respective blockchain platforms. Most of these platforms are established in cooperation with notary offices, appraisal agencies, arbitration institutions, procuratorates, judicial bureaus and other courts.
In September 2018, Hangzhou Internet Court announced the official launch of its self-built judicial blockchain platform, called “(Judicial) Blockchain” (司法区块链).
In March 2019, a blockchain platform called "Balance Chain" (天平链) developed by Beijing Internet Court was launched.
In April 2019, Guangzhou Internet Court announced the launch of the "Internet Legal Chain" (网通法链) system.
The basic functions of the three platforms are the same, which are to make the whole process of generating, storing, disseminating and using electronic data credible.
These blockchain platforms have established partnerships with the most frequently used websites or APPs (including Alibaba, JD, Tencent, HUAWEI, etc.) by Chinese Internet users. These websites or APPs will provide data interface for these blockchain platforms, through which the parties can obtain data from these websites or APPs.
At present, procedural law experts are also examining whether there are legal defects in the process of the blockchain platform.
Dr. Li Xiaokai and I will continue to follow the progress in this field.
Cover Image by Pete Linforth(https://pixabay.com/users/thedigitalartist-202249/) from Pixabay
Contributors: Guodong Du 杜国栋