Cryptoeconomic Systems Lab

Project’s topic

A DAO (Decentralized Autonomous Organization) is a “digital company” created using blockchain technology. This new form of social organization is one of the main pillars of the crypto economy. DAOs operate primarily in the digital environment (as opposed to the “real world”) and are mainly used in Decentralized Finance (DeFi), which is developing around cryptocurrencies, of which Bitcoin is the best known. DAOs are also essential to the development of Web 3.0, which is a new kind of Internet where Decentralized Applications (DApps) play a central role. These different factors are at the origin of the craze for DAOs that can be observed today.

The constitution and operation of a DAO is run by blockchain-based Smart Contracts. Unlike a traditional company, a DAO does not need the law to be incorporated and to have commercial or non-commercial activities. This statement is true as long as a DAO remains confined to the digital environment. But if a DAO extends its activities into the real world, it inevitably finds itself confronted with one or more legal orders. For example, a DAO may hire a software developer to improve its code, or investors who have been harmed by a hack may want to sue a DAO for failing to protect their interests. In those circumstances, it is necessary to determine which legal rules are applicable to DAOs, which is a challenging task as DAOs are a new type of company unknown to the law. The main question is whether the DAO itself exists from a legal point of view. Is it possible to recognize DAOs as having a legal personality equivalent to that attributed to traditional companies?

Exploring the Laws for DAOs is a multi-faceted project devoted primarily to the legal handling of DAOs. But this research is not limited to law: it also involves other disciplines, notably computer science. In its current stage of development, this project aims to precisely define the legal notion of a DAO and to legally qualify this type of social organization in order to determine the applicable legal rules. In view of the intrinsically international character of these entities formed and operating mainly on the Internet, these questions are examined in three frames of reference: the national, international, and anational legal orders. In a later stage of development, Exploring the Laws for DAOs will integrate other disciplines to draw a complete picture of the economic and societal issues related to the creation of a new form of company.

Academic interest of the project and its importance for the industry

Exploring the Laws for DAOs is a project that started in 2016 with the first research of prof. Florence Guillaume on private international law issues related to the use of blockchain technology. This pioneering study was published in a collective work edited by three professors of the Faculty of Law. Sven Riva then wrote his Master’s thesis in law on the recognition of DAOs in the Swiss legal system. This work is the first scientific research on the understanding of DAOs by law. Prof. Guillaume and Mr. Riva have continued their research on DAOs and have gained international recognition in this field, which is still little explored. This has led them, among other things, to participate in an international group of experts set up to draft a model law for DAOs, which is a model law that can be adopted by States wishing to integrate DAOs into their law. Mr. Riva is currently writing his doctoral thesis on “The new forms of companies arising from the blockchain”, which will present an in-depth analysis of the legal issues raised by DAOs.

DAOs occupy a central place in the emerging Web 3.0 economy and it is essential for Switzerland to provide a clear and adapted legal framework for this type of organization so that our country can fully benefit from this new and growing market. This is the context of Exploring the Laws for DAOs.

Publications related to the project

Florence Guillaume, Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs) Before State Courts. How Can Private International Law Keep Up With Global Digital Entities?, in Perestrelo de Oliveira/Garcia (eds), DAO Regulation: Principles and Perspectives for the Future, 2023 [to be published].

Florence Guillaume & Sven Riva, Blockchain Dispute Resolution for Decentralized Autonomous Organizations, in Bonomi/Lehmann (eds), Blockchain and Private International Law, Leyde 2023 [to be published].

Florence Guillaume & Sven Riva, How to resolve a dispute involving a DAO, The FinReg Blog, Global Financial Markets Center, Duke University School of Law, 21.07.2022.

Florence Guillaume & Sven Riva, Model Law for DAOs – a legal regime adapted to a new type of digital company, LexTech Institute Blog, 25.01.2022.

Florence Guillaume & Sven Riva, DAO, code et loi – Le régime technologique et juridique de la decentralized autonomous organization, Assas International Law Review (RDIA) 2021, p. 206-232.

Florence Guillaume, L’effet disruptif des smart contracts et des DAOs sur le droit international privé, in Richa/Canapa (eds), Droit et économie numérique, Bern 2021, p. 35-59.

Sven Riva, Do DAOs exist in Switzerland?, LexTech Institute Blog, 22.10.2020.

Sven Riva, Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs) in the Swiss Legal Order, Yearbook of Private International Law, Volume 21 (2019/2020), p. 601-638.

Sven Riva, Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs) as subjects of law. The recognition of DAOs in the Swiss legal order, Master’s thesis, University of Neuchâtel, 2019.

Florence Guillaume, Aspects of Private International Law Related to Blockchain Transactions, in Kraus/Obrist/Hari (eds), Blockchains, Smart Contracts, Decentralized Autonomous Organizations and the Law, Cheltenham/Northampton 2019, p. 49-82.

Conferences given on the topic of the project

Florence Guillaume, Law & Legitimacy, Workshop panel, Blockchain Constitutionalism: the Role of Legitimacy in Polycentric Systems, European University Institute, Florence 2023.

Aleksa Mil, Adam Miller, Nathan Postillion, Sven Riva & Eric Hill, DAO in a Day – When, Why & How DAOs Take On & Interact with Legal Entities, Webinar, MIDAO directory services, 2022.

Florence Guillaume & Sven Riva, An HCCH Convention for the international recognition of DAOs ?, conference, The HCCH Conference on Commercial, Digital and Financial Law Across Borders (CODIFI), Hague Conference on Private International Law, The Hague, 2022.

Sven Riva, The COALA Model Law for DAOs, conference, International Conference on Legal Perspective on the Internet, University of Iasi, 2022.

Florence Guillaume, Can the DAO make it ?, round table, Building Bridges, Fintech.Li, Liechtenstein, 2022.

Sven Riva, COALA Model Law, the importance of legal frameworks beyond entities, and Swiss legal entity options for DAOs, conference, MCon, Denver, 2022.

Sven Riva, La matérialisation de la Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO) en droit suisse, conference, La technologie, l’humain et le droit, Conférence universitaire de Suisse occidentale (CUSO), Neuchâtel 2022.

Sven Riva, Le droit à la rencontre de la DAO, présentation, Coworking Neuchâtel Crypto talk, Neuchâtel, 2022.

Florence Guillaume, Exploring the Laws for DAOs, conference, Blockchain Governance Initiative Network (BGIN Block #6), Zurich, 2022.

Sven Riva, La reconnaissance de la DAO dans l’ordre juridique suisse, conference, Journée doctorale franco-suisse de droit international privé, Paris, 2022.

Florence Guillaume & Sven Riva, Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs) and the Law, conference, UZH Blockchain Center, University of Zurich, 2022.

Florence Guillaume, Decentralized Justice and Web 3.0, round table, Autonomy through cyberjustice technology, University of Montreal, 2022.

Florence Guillaume & Sven Riva, Legal aspects of DAO, conference, Sony Group Corp. Corporate Technology Strategy Division, 2022.

Sven Riva & Vasileios Panagiotidis, SolarDAO, the future of solar is decentralized, presentation, Open Legal Lab Hackathon, Macolin, 2022.

Florence Guillaume & Sven Riva, Droit suisse et technologie blockchain, conference, Association des magistrats neuchâtelois, Neuchâtel, 2021.

Florence Guillaume, Blockchain, cryptoéconomie et droit, journée doctorale, organization and moderation, University of Neuchâtel, 2021.

Sven Riva, L’existence juridique des organisations autonomes et décentralisées (DAOs), conference, Association neuchâteloise des assistants-doctorants en droit, Neuchâtel, 2021.

Florence Guillaume & Sven Riva, International DAO Relationships, DAO Workshops, Coala, Paris/Florence/Cagliari/Amsterdam, 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022.

Courses taught on the topic of the project

Sven Riva & Silke Noa, DAOs and the law: Crafting DAO legal “wrappers”, course, Blockchain governance, Stanford University, 2023.

Sven Riva & Silke Noa, Legal considerations of “unwrapped” DAOs, course, Blockchain governance, Stanford University, 2023.

Florence Guillaume, Les nouveaux modes de résolution des litiges sur la blockchain, course, Diplôme de médiation organisationnelle et économique, University of Paris II (Panthéon-Assas), 2022.

Florence Guillaume & Sven Riva, Aspects juridiques de la blockchain, course, Blockchain et IA : opportunités et défis pour les entreprises, Haute école de gestion Arc, Neuchâtel, 2020 et 2021.

Florence Guillaume, Créer sa Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO) : parcours technique et analyse juridique, course, Master’s of Law, University of Neuchâtel, 2020/2021.

Sven Riva, Aspects juridiques des Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs), Master’s of Law, University of Neuchâtel, 2020.

Florence Guillaume, Code is Law, cours, Master’s of Law, University of Neuchâtel, 2019/2020.

Sven Riva, Code is Law – Droit international privé, Master’s of Law, University of Neuchâtel, 2019.

Project team

Prénom Nom

Prof. Florence Guillaume
Faculty of law

Prénom Nom

Sven Riva
PhD student, Faculty of Law