Is Stanford’s Center for Blockchain Research Legal?

Jun 28, 2018 · 11 min read
“We often hear that ‘Law is Code’ but the last time I went to Stanford Law School, I got ‘firewalled’ by the turnstiles at the entrance. What’s really going on in there?” -CleanApp (Photo by Ye Linn Wai)

At CleanApp Foundation, we think this is a hugely significant move and one that will continue to have ripple effects long beyond the initial 5-year charter.

Stanford & The E+5

Who Hatched This Gambit?

How Did It Happen?

What’s The Score?

Who’s The Mastermind?

Is It Legal?

By asking whether Stanford’s Center for Blockchain Research is “legal,” we’re not interested in the usual binary way that question is asked (legal v. illegal). Instead, we want to know “how legal?” & “how extra-legal?” these arrangements were, are, & will be.

“Law isn’t binary or black & white; it’s a gooey whirling medium for expressing power.” -CleanApp (photo by Dmitri Popov)

Stanford Being Stanford…


CleanApp’s Agenda

The broader crypto community can benefit from some of the macro- and micro-level legal frameworks and critiques that we’ve developed and have started deploying. For our part, we need the crypto community to rally around what we’ve identified as crypto’s killer app in the current stage of blockchain development and adoption. Our hope is that both can complement one another.


We’re outside observers, for the most part, with no implicit bias against or preference towards any of the actors or institutions we’re analyzing.

We know your time is precious, so please know, if you’re one of those people who expected a “Yes” or “No” answer, you will benefit the most from this story; if you have patience and intellectual curiosity, that is.

“C++ is code, many tattoos are code, and Law is Code.” -CleanApp (photo by Alex Hockett)



“Law is Code. It can be viral or benign, mutually-constitutive or debilitating.” -CleanApp (photo by Markus Spiske)

CryptoLawyers, Rejoice! But Not So Fast.

CBR Will Make Law

“The law” is behind those stately columns, and “the law” is also in front of those stately columns. Can you see it? What does this mean for crypto? If you’re a person who realizes the real-world implications and value of these types of questions, you’ll enjoy this read. If not, you should befriend a lawyer who does. Seriously.

It allows us to imagine Stanford’s CBR fulfilling informal “notice & comment” functions, translating the needs of the crypto community into legalese, and translating the concerns of regulators into crypto.

Stanford University, the home of the Center for Blockchain Research (CBR) —

CBR Will Push Legal Theory Forward

I’ve come to collect on that “crypto” judgment entered against you in that “self-contained legal system” you were “smart contract”-ing in. Surprise, it’s not so self-contained after all. -CleanApp (photo by Luther Bottrill)

Anytime anyone invests resources to ask big questions about the place of law vis-a-vis particular social/technological processes, we’re better off because it raises the likelihood of better legal thought.

Mining Crypto Legal Forms

Everyone in the crypto space should be curious to know whether the EF-Stanford contract is a “smart contract,” and if so, just how smart. Everyone should be curious to know the contours of the E+5 “CBR alliance.” If there is no formal/informal “consortium,” why not?

We should consider how our earlier assumptions constrained our imaginations regarding the optimal legal form of the CBR. We should question our assumptions. In this sense, the questions themselves can become answers.

In Law, Questions Can Be Answers

Crypto Law Review

A journal pushing the bounds of our legal imaginaries, on-chain, off-chain, and against the chain.


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Small NGO with a big patent urging BigTech & Crypto to enable trash/hazard reporting & open source data. "The Wi-Fi & Bluetooth of TrashTech" -

Crypto Law Review

A journal pushing the bounds of our legal imaginaries, on-chain, off-chain, and against the chain.