Addison Cameron-Huff, Blockchain Lawyer

Thoughts and opinions of a Toronto-based cryptocurrency lawyer who's worked in the industry since 2014.

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Supreme Court Thinks Armed Robbery Rate is Rising: It's Low and Falling

In last week's decision of R. v. Fearon, Justice Cromwell (for the majority) wrote "armed robbery ... a crime that has become depressingly routine." This is an odd observation to see from the highest court in the country given that crime rates have been falling across the board for decades.

According to the RCMP, armed robbery rates are down 50% since the bad old days of 2000. Statscan figures show that between 1999 and 2008, the overall rate of robbery with a firearm decreased by about 40% in Canada. The rate of armed robbery has decreased by about 50% since 1994 (table 16, compare with other Statscan table).

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Bitcoin Arbitration System

Arbitration clauses are a common feature of commercial contracts*. As Bitcoin becomes a more common way of transacting business I can imagine there being two-of-three multisig used with an arbitration company.

How the scheme would work is that one key is held by the buyer, one by the seller and the third by a mutually agreed upon arbitration agent. The agent would do whatever is ordered by the arbitration that is triggered by a dispute between the parties. This would allow for arbitration orders to be both binding in law and in practice (becomes the bitcoins would be sent immediately).

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Correcting Errors in Wilkins' Bank of Canada Bitcoin Speech

The Senior Deputy Governor of the Bank of Canada, Carolyn Wilkins, gave a speech yesterday about Bitcoin that outlines some of the Bank's thinking. Ms. Wilkins seems quite knowledgeable about digital currencies (she mentions Ripple and Litecoin in the speech) but she makes a few errors. These errors are completely understandable because digital currencies are complicated but it's worth correcting these mistakes because the Bank of Canada needs to thoroughly understand these new money-like technologies. As a lawyer who works in the cryptocurrency space and computer programmer, here are my views on Ms. Wilkins' speech.

Bank of Canada Claim vs. Fact

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Tech Bona Fides

I was recently asked about my programming background and thought it would be useful to put together a few of the things I've done over the years.

In 2009 I won 1st place at the finals of Yahoo's international programming competition with this hack: This followed my win at the regional level (University of Waterloo).

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Nova Scotia Court of Appeal: Great Cover Sheets

The Nova Scotia Court of Appeal (NSCA) does something special with their published decisions: they have informative cover sheets. So far as I know, all other courts publish their judgements free-form. The NSCA cover sheets contain a list of subjects covered, a quick summary, a list of issues and a result. It seems like common sense but this practice seems to be limited to Nova Scotia.

Here's an example decision: Canada (Attorney General) v. MacQueen, 2014 NSCA 96 (scroll down to page two).

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Getting Rid of Oral Testimony: Increased Fairness and Efficiency

Imagine a poor, strung-out woman who testifies and then a man in a suit gives contradictory testimony. A judge hears both parties and rejects the woman's testimony.

Our judicial system depends on having people testify in court. The theory is that judges and juries can tell if someone is lying by looking at them while the person speaks.

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Supreme Court Statistics: 4261 Cases Parsed and Analysed

I've written a computer program to process 4261 Supreme Court of Canada decisions going back to approximately 2006.

UPDATE: There's now an odds calculator that builds on this work.

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Excellent Advice from Sam Altman (YCombinator) on Starting a Company

Excellent advice from Sam Altman, President of YCombinator in the form of a transcript from his first class at Stanford on startups:

This lecture is aimed at university students but it's great advice for anyone.

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Step-by-Step Guide to Starting a Software Company (Legally)

My legal practice is mostly startup tech companies in Toronto, Canada. Every week I have two or three new founder teams who come in and ask what they need to do to start a tech company. Here's a general outline of the legal steps* necessary to start a software company in Canada:

Step 0: Talk to a Lawyer

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Encrypted Communication for Lawyers and Clients

If you're a lawyer then your emails are probably being monitored by the NSA/CSEC, China, support staff at your firm, criminals, etc. If you're using a cloud-based software system to keep track of documents or communicate with clients then there's an even higher risk that someone out there is looking over your shoulder and reading your clients' secrets.

As more lawyers migrate to "the cloud" with services like Clio, Slack and Office 365 the bar should be very concerned about the (lack of) security built into the tools we use. But don't these companies have great security? Yes, but the NSA has even better anti-security (e.g. $1.2 billion surveillance data centers) and legal-electronic tools like PRSIM to extract secrets from companies like Google, Microsoft, Yahoo!, etc.

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Using Electrum Master Public Keys to Build a Bitcoin E-Commerce Platform

The simplest way to accept Bitcoin payments is to set up a wallet and tell people to send you bitcoins. The next level of complexity is setting up a system where each person who pays you is given a unique address (to pay to) and then automatically collecting those payments and marking that person in a database as having paid. How can you do this?

Electrum Master Public Keys (BIP 32) allow you to generate new addresses on the fly that "deposit" automatically into one Electrum wallet. The trick is that you can generate addresses using the Master Public Key + Offset (an integer). So for each customer you assign an ID number and then generate a Bitcoin address that corresponds to that ID. The code that generates these addresses doesn't require access to your private keys, only the master public key (which is used to derive the other public keys that become the addresses).

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I'm the World's First "Certified Bitcoin Professional" Lawyer

Apparently I'm the world's first Certified Bitcoin Professional lawyer:

The Certified Bitcoin Professional (CBP) designation is a new professional designation run by the "Crypto Currency Certification Consortium". Among the many people involved is Michael Perklin of bitcoinsultants.

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Slides for LawTechCamp 2014

I'm at LawTechCamp 2014 at Ryerson DMZ. Here are the slides for my talk that's coming up at 12:50.

PDF Version: why-has-software-not-revolutionized-law-slides.pdf

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Bitcoin May Replace Wire Transfers

A few weeks ago I spoke with someone who buys a lot of Bitcoin. They buy it and then immediately send it to a supplier in China who then ships them manufactured goods. They used to use wire transfers but said it took about four days to clear and the Chinese company wouldn't ship the goods until they got the money. With Bitcoin they get the money immediately and he gets his goods four days sooner. The buyer also saved a bit on wire transfer/currency conversion fees.

Bitcoin would be a great way for banks to settle transactions between themselves without using intermediate banks/payment networks because it's instantaneous and irreversible. This could enable banks to offer wire transfer-like products that settle in minutes instead of days (or weeks).

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New Ontario Tech Startup Grant Fund

There's a new grant program available to Ontario tech entrepreneurs who are 18-29 and affiliated with a university:

The grant program is called the "SmartStart Seed Fund" and is a program delivered by the Ontario Centres of Excellence.

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LawTechCamp: Sept. 6th

LawTechCamp 2014 is coming up this September 6th at Ryerson's DMZ. It's a BarCamp-like event for legal technology and if last year's speakers are any indication, it looks like it'll be a who's who of Toronto legal tech people.

[Update: my law practice is now a sponsor of LawTechCamp 2014!]

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Don't Put the Accountants in Charge of Bitcoin

If your business is considering using Bitcoin then please don't put the accountants in charge (or at least the internal auditors).

In this month's issue of Internal Auditor Magazine (put out by the 180,000 member Institute of Internal Auditors) there's an article titled "Digital Currency Risks" that describes Bitcoin as being used by "10,000" people with "12.8 million" bitcoins in circulation ("worth about US$8 million").

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Is Sending Spam Worse Than Killing a Blue Whale?

Killing an endangered blue whale has a softer penalty than breaching Canada's new anti-spam laws by sending a single unsolicited email. The Canadian anti-spam legislation (full text) is now in force and penalties for violations are theoretically up to $1 million for an individual who sends one email without consent and $10 million for a business.

$1 million for sending one spam message is completely out of step with the penalties for other Canadian laws. Here are a few examples of penalties for individuals under other laws:

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How Bitcoin Might Change Your Paycheque

People are paid every two weeks because it's too expensive to pay people daily. I mean too expensive both in the sense of administrative overhead (if people are paid manually) and transaction fees (cheques/EFT fees).

Bitcoin offers the potential to pay people daily or even hourly because transaction fees are reduced to near zero. Here's an interesting article that explores this concept and the idea of paying for performance using Bitcoin/Ethereum:

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Bitcoin Scripts

Interesting blog post on how to use the Bitcoin scripting language to build complex applications:

The examples they give are Kickstarter-type campaigns, escrow and gambling. I didn't know these sorts of applications could be built (trustlessly) on top of the Bitcoin scripting language.

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There are hundreds more blog posts to read, going back to 2014:
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