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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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
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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Blockchain Gambling

One of the first applications of Bitcoin was online gambling because gambling companies have a hard time with a) chargebacks; and, b) the legality of their services. The earlier pioneers in Bitcoin gambling all suffered from a problem of centralization: there was always a single website that gamblers had to use and trust. Recent innovations like Augur and Ethereum are changing the dynamic.

A new service called Augur (built on top of Ethereum) has been getting a lot of media attention and apparently racing bookies are concerned:

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As a lawyer and programmer I have long thought it would be useful to have a search engine for world laws. I run several specialized legal/legislative information services (e.g. that have taught me quite a bit about how hard it is to gather legal information and present it to users. After years of consideration and many months of hard work I'm pleased to announce the launch of

Global-Regulation is a law search engine that currently has a database of 212,000 laws from all over the world (some are machine translated from China, French and German). Searching this 12 gigabyte database of laws takes seconds because of a dedicated in-RAM search application that is in front of the MySQL database (hosted on Google Cloud for speed, redundancy and ease of scaling). If the current database were printed out it would be approximately 7 million pages (and completely unusable).

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How Multinationals Shift Profits To Low/No-Tax Jurisdictions

Let's say I have a company that sells gravel in Canada. I buy gravel wholesale for $500 per ton then sell it retail at $1000 a ton. I make approximately $500 per ton in profit. That means I would have to pay corporate tax on the $500 per ton in profit (assuming I had no other costs). What if I set up an offshore subsidiary (e.g. Cayman Islands) that buys the gravel from my supplier for $500 per ton then sells it to me for $1000 per ton and then I sell it to the customer for $1000 per ton? If that were possible, I'd effectively shift the profit I make from gravel sales from Canada to a no-tax offshore country and thus escape corporate tax while still making just as much money (and if I had any other costs, I'd then have a loss that I could apply to past year's gains).

"Transfer pricing" is the term given to the price set between related entities (e.g. a Canadian company and its Cayman Islands subsidiary). The rules for how companies can set their prices internally are complicated but attempt to stop would-be tax cheats from moving profit from one country (that has taxes) to another country (that doesn't, or has very low taxes). A key principle is that the price that a company should pay to its subsidiary is the price that they would pay an "arms-length" company. This principle is hard to apply and the rules create opportunities to pay very little tax on very large sales.

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MIT & Boston University School of Law Launch Innovation Law Clinic

MIT and Boston University are teaming up to open a new legal clinic to assist students with innovation issues. The clinic is partly a response to the suicide of Aaron Swartz following prosecution for mass downloading journal articles at MIT.

The clinic is:

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Blog Traffic Since I Started My Law Practice

I started my law practice in July of 2013 and immediately began blogging. In the first full month of my practice my law blog received 80 visitors. Two years later, my blog receives around 1100 visitors a month.

Google Analytics data for

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Bitfinex Abandoning New York State

New York's heavy-handed Bitcoin business regulation (the "BitLicense") has caused at least one player to abandon the New York market:

Bitfinex's move comes following outcry when the new regulations were first announced. Businesses complained that they'd be forced to leave New York due to high compliance costs and it seems they were right. That said, Bitfinex is a Hong Kong-managed British Virgin Islands company so this isn't a case of a domestic company being forced to leave.

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Running Ethereum on a Mac

Ethereum launched today just before noon EST. Here are the steps to follow in order to get it set up on your Mac:

1. Open up the Terminal

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Starting a Web Development Agency in Canada

Before starting my law practice I ran a consulting programming business for many years. Since starting my practice I've assisted a number of web development agencies (and independent programmers) get off the ground/upgrade their contracting processes.

A rough overview to starting a web development/digital marketing agency:

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Building A Universal Law Service

More and more countries are hosting laws online. Machine translation gets better by the day. When will we have access to all of the world's laws translated into the languages of the world?

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3D Printed Models for Legal Cases

I think 3D printing is the future for cases that involve construction. Although insiders may understand floor plans, seeing a physical model of the building as it will be is powerful. Below are a few photos of a 3D printed model for a case that I recently worked on. It was the first 3D model that the expert planner, who's been in the business for 30 years, had seen (and they got a copy of the model too).

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Buying a "Pint" in Ontario

A bar near my house recently started selling "pints" in 16 oz. glasses. What should you be getting in Ontario when you order a "pint"?

According to the Weights and Measures Act:

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There are hundreds more blog posts to read, going back to 2013:
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