Addison Cameron-Huff, Blockchain Lawyer

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

A Glimpse of a Global Future of Law Practice

A little while ago I had a Skype consultation with an Italian entrepreneur who had a problem with a German software developer. I asked what the problem had to do with Canada and he said nothing. I asked why he wanted to hire me and he said that he'd done extensive research online and thought that I was the best person for the job.

The potential client had a problem and they wanted someone who knew about contracts, law and software to help them out. They didn't think of their problem as an Italian problem or a Swiss problem.*

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Interesting Word Pairs in Global Laws

Global-Regulation.com (I'm the CTO) has published a list of the top word pairs found in global laws. The Excel file can be downloaded here.

I've looked through the top 500 words and taken note below of some of the more interesting word pairs.

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Critique of Slock.it DAO Paper

A "Decentralized autonomous organization ('DAO')" white paper has been published by German blockchain company Slock.it UG. This white paper is part of a larger conversation that's been going on for a few years in the Bitcoin/blockchain world. The basic idea is to build a software program that runs like a company, but on a decentralized software platform (e.g. Ethereum). Slock.it's paper is one of the longer contributions to this effort (31 pages, including code examples).

This blog post details a few thoughts on the Slock.it proposal, from a lawyer's point of view.

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CSEC Job Postings

Canada's equivalent of the NSA, CSEC, is always on the hunt for new talent. There's a job listing today for a "Telecom Technologist & Network Analyst". One of the job requirements: “Experience in administration of remote network endpoints where there is little to no assistance at the remote end.” I wouldn't expect too much help from the other end when you're doing foreign signals intelligence.

The pay for CSEC jobs is surprisingly good for Ottawa civil service but probably not competitive with the private sector right now. Posted salaries for experienced people range from $70k-$100k. Most private sector jobs for similar roles don't have posted salaries but appear to be about $30k/yr higher.

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Food for Thought from CIGI Roundtable on Blockchain Regulation

Last week I attended a roundtable put on by CIGI in Toronto titled “Regulating Blockchain & Distributed Ledger Technologies: Challenges and Opportunities for Canadian Innovation”. Speakers included key people from industry, government and academia. I've distilled my notes about speakers' thoughts and my own reflections into 18 questions. Please note that the roundtable was conducted under a rule of not crediting speakers - the thoughts below are mostly not my own.

  1. When we talk about regulation, what are we talking about? (Smart contracts, industry standards, technical standards, regulations, acts, common law, etc.?)
  2. What are the benefits of blockchains right now? What will the future benefits be? What might the downsides be?
  3. Who should be trusted? Banks? Bitcoin exchanges? Programmers?
  4. Do parties that require trust also require government-created rules?
  5. Will we still have banks in 30 years? What about other intermediaries?
  6. Who will take a cut of future blockchain transactions? Which intermediaries? Government authorities?
  7. Will government authorities take a cut of transactions directly? (i.e. X% of each transaction goes to the CRA)
  8. Governments have an impulse to regulate. Will new regulations mean giving up the benefits of blockchain or giving up Canada's place in the global market?
  9. What are the implications of "programmable trust"? Will we have a future where government functions are transferred to private interactions (i.e. smart contracts) administered through blockchains?
  10. What role is there for the (Canadian) government to play as a partner rather than a regulator?
  11. Which activities should be governed by criminal law and which by a lighter touch (fines, AMPs, etc.)?
  12. Is a lack of a regulation in the blockchain space a "gap" in the law or an opportunity for entrepreneurs?
  13. Can regulatory "gaps" be filled with common law and economic behaviour rather than government-prescribed rules? Are there any gaps that cannot be filled by private actors or court-created law?
  14. Should blockchain developers be expected to assist government in their traditional roles of law enforcement and taxation?
  15. Are the differences between "public" and "private" blockchains important to regulators?
  16. What are the jurisdictional challenges to a decentralized global economic system enabled by blockchains?
  17. Is there a breaking point in which blockchain benefits (in the form of talented humans making these systems) migrate to less regulated countries?
  18. What can be done to ensure that "good" regulations are made by the federal and provincial governments?

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Effect of Interveners at the Supreme Court of Canada

The presence of interveners doesn't seem to affect an appellant's chance of success at the Supreme Court of Canada.

I took a look at 844 recent Supreme Court of Canada cases that proceeded to the stage in which there was an appellant (as opposed to applicant). There doesn't seem to be any discernible pattern in the data.

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Supreme Court Factum Page Length Statistics

I've analysed 1871 Supreme Court of Canada factums (88902 pages in total) to determine statistical information about factums for appellants, respondents and other parties (i.e. intervenors). This analysis was done using a program.

Appellants & Respondents

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41 Toronto-Based Legaltech Businesses

I've compiled a list of Toronto-based legaltech startups & established players:

30 Toronto-based Legal Technology Startups

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Making Canada Business Corporations Act Shareholder Meetings Convenient

The Canada Business Corporations Act requires that companies hold regular shareholder meetings but the statute allows companies to dispense with the requirement of physical meetings by using written resolutions instead (s. 142(b)).

Written resolutions are a great tool for corporations owned by a single shareholder or a small team of co-founders but it's important to note that all of the required business of a shareholder meeting must be addressed in the written resolutions.

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Free Shipping from Shenzhen to Toronto: How?

The foot pad on my Macbook Pro Retina fell off the other day. The Apple Store didn't have a replacement part but an eBay seller in Shenzhen, China did. For $3 with free shipping.

The cheapest international shipping option with Canada Post is $5.35 for up to 100g (without tracking). How can a store in China sell me anything for $3, including shipping?

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John Chen's BlackBerry: Less Privacy Than Legally Required?

The CEO of BlackBerry blogged last week about how “our privacy commitment does not extend to criminals”. He accused Apple of placing “their [reputation] above the greater good” when the company explained to a court why they can't and shouldn't provide access to encrypted iOS devices.

John Chen would like companies to go beyond the law and do what's “ethical”, citing the responsibility of citizens to “help thwart crime when they can safely do so”.

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CanLII's robots.txt

CanLII's robots.txt file provides preferential access to its database of laws & cases to users of Google vs. other search engines. This blog post explains how they're doing it and why that is inconsistent with CanLII's privileged position in the Canadian legal publishing landscape.

As a preface to this post: I'm a big fan of CanLII's service and use it regularly for my legal practice. Just because something is great doesn't mean it can't be better.

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Supreme Court of Canada: Most Prolific Counsel

Which lawyers have represented the most number of clients before the Supreme Court of Canada in recent years?

In order to answer this question I analysed the most recent 6984 cases before the Supreme Court of Canada (approximately ten years of cases) and extracted the named counsel for each case. The results are given below.

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Google To Start Supporting (Some) Youtubers Fair Use Cases

Google announced last week that they will start defending some of their users in court when "fair use" ("fair dealing" in Canada) is at stake.

Google is promising to, with consent of the video creator, “keep the videos live on YouTube in the U.S., feature them in the YouTube Copyright Center as strong examples of fair use, and cover the cost of any copyright lawsuits brought against them.”. Although this will only be for a “small number of videos”, this is a big step forward for fair use/fair dealing. Establishing important precedents in favour of creators will help the public and YouTube.

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Top Supreme Court Firms By Case Count

Continuing my work on Supreme Court data mining, I've extracted the firm names from the last ~7000 Supreme Court of Canada cases (going back about 10 years). This analysis was done by taking the first line of the address for each party, which is almost always the firm name. Below are the top 14 firms + the Attorney General of Canada.

Firm NameParty CountCase Count
Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP37722437
Burke-Robertson15741297
Attorney General of Canada14771224
Lang Michener LLP1206852
Noël & Associés882638
Supreme Advocacy LLP670464
Borden Ladner Gervais LLP501367
Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP297183
Nelligan O'Brien Payne LLP281178
McCarthy Tétrault LLP259185
McMillan LLP257181
Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP239136
Sack Goldblatt Mitchell LLP237166
Heenan Blaikie LLP227141
Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP227149

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How Not To Update A Terms Of Use Agreement

Uber B.V. (the Dutch company that licenses the Uber application to end users) changed their "Terms of Use" agreement in Canada on November 19th. I was notified of this by an email from Uber Canada (shown below).

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The Marketplace Model: A Huge Win Courtesy of Uber Canada

I often advise startups about running what I term "marketplace" businesses. That is, companies that connect customers with other businesses on a digital platform. The key challenge for these businesses is not being seen as the entity making the sale but rather as the entity connecting two independent entities (customer and supplier). These businesses are at the cutting edge of a change in the way that business is done as we move ever more towards a world of smartphones, contracting and reduced transaction costs. Uber is the most prominent of this new breed of startups.

This past summer's case of City of Toronto v Uber Canada Inc. et al., 2015 ONSC 3572, 126 O.R. (3d) is an incredible win for this business model and should encourage anyone interested in exploring marketplaces. Why is this case important?

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SecondMarket Acquired By NASDAQ

SecondMarket has been acquired by NASDAQ.

SecondMarket is the main tech company private share marketplace in the US. I wonder if NASDAQ plans on expanding its presence in other markets.

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New Zealand Does Not Allow You To Explode Nuclear Weapons

New Zealand has an interesting offence on the books:

“No person may—
(a) carry out any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion; or
(b) cause, encourage, or in any way participate in, the carrying out of any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion.”

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Ontario to Allow Limited Sales of Beer in Grocery Stores

Ontario grocery stores will be allowed to sell up to 46 million six-packs of beer per year in Ontario, according to the Toronto Star. This sounds like a lot of beer but according to the beer trade association, Beer Canada, Ontarians purchased 7.9 million hectolitres of beer in 2014 (790,000,000 litres of beer).

46 million six packs of beer is, at 355mL per bottle (0.35L), 16,330,000 litres of beer (163,300 hectolitres of beer). So of the 8.9 million hectolitres of beer consumed in Ontario, grocery stores will be able to sell a maximum of 163,300 - around 2% of total beer sales.

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