Justice Michael Black, head judge of Dubai’s dedicated Digital Economy Court, has revealed the emirate’s plans to keep up with the ever-changing legal landscape to help protect the public against emerging threats such as cryptocurrency fraud.
Launched in December last year, the court provides civil and commercial litigation for matters related to advanced technologies, including artificial intelligence, big data, blockchain, 3D printing and robotics.
Justice Black told The National: “We have to look at what was said to be science fiction about seven years ago and is now science fact.” He went on to explain that the court currently deals mainly with digital currency disputes, with one high-profile case attracting international attention.
The case involves the alleged misappropriation of 300 bitcoins worth Dh31.2 million ($8.5 million). It originated when the buyer’s representative insisted on setting up a digital wallet, supposedly overseen by both parties, but two hours after the bitcoins were transferred, they were moved to another wallet. This led to police involvement and eventually a court case.
The court ruled last October that the agreement did not amount to a binding contract and the case is now set to go to the Court of Appeal in January. Justice Black pointed out that this decision will be closely monitored by people from around the world as it could set legal precedents.
In addition to being head judge of the Digital Economy Court, Justice Black is also a judge at the DIFC Court of Appeal. He was in charge of devising the court’s rules and regulations to ensure that they can be adapted to the changing needs of a developing field. The court’s small-claims jurisdiction offers a user-friendly service for cases involving as little as $10,000.
Justice Black commented that the court will broaden its scope to include matters related to AI, smart contracts, Distributed Autonomous Organisations (DAOs) and Autonomous Digital Enterprises (ADEs). This is a significant step towards a future of minimal human involvement in businesses as DAOs and ADEs are blockchain-based entities that exist purely as computer code.
Ghassan El Daye, partner and head of litigation in the Middle East for UK-based law firm Charles Russell Speechlys, which is leading the cryptocurrency dispute case, said the court will be vital in settling digital disputes in the years to come. He believes that the court’s dedicated expertise in areas such as blockchain technologies and digital currencies allows for the unique challenges and complexities of these sectors to be addressed more effectively.
El Daye also stated that the court’s use of technology has streamlined legal processes, reducing the time and resources required for dispute resolution. He believes that by creating a legal environment that is attuned to the digital economy, the court is fostering innovation and encouraging businesses to adopt new technologies.
This is a positive step for the UAE’s digital economy, making it an attractive destination for foreign investors interested in the tech sectors. The Digital Economy Court is thus primed to play a key role in regulating advancing technologies and digital currencies in Dubai.