Diagramming Contracts, from a computer science perspective
Three computer scientists from Chalmers Univ. of Technology & the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, have released a short paper presenting a possible diagramming scheme for legal documents. John Camilleri, Gabriele Paganelli, and Gerardo Schneider published “A CNL for for Contract-Oriented Diagrams” to explain how it may be possible to visually represent a contract’s text. The visualization is not just for explaining purposes, but to better codify the parties’ obligations, permissions, and prohibitions — as well as the timing & consequences of these rules.
The paper tries to convert a typical text-based document into a systematized, machine-readable, and visual form. The authors have thought of this framework as a way to build a future platform in which professionals could produce Diagrammed, Visual Contracts that are created interactively, in this visual manner — and perhaps also feeding them into a machine that can read them and enforce them.
Here are some of the visualizations that they’ve made to demonstrate some basic examples of contract diagramming.
Here is the paper’s abstract:
We present a first step towards a framework for defining and manipulating normative documents or contracts described as Contract-Oriented (C-O) Diagrams. These diagrams provide a visual representation for such texts, giving the possibility to express a signatory’s obligations, permissions and prohibitions, with or without timing constraints, as well as the penalties resulting from the non-fulfilment of a contract. This work presents a CNL for verbalising C-O Diagrams, a web-based tool allowing editing in this CNL, and another for visualising and manipulating the diagrams interactively. We then show how these proof-of-concept tools can be used by applying them to a small example.