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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Book Review: The Genesis Book By Aaron Van Wirdum

When Aaron van Wirdum's “The Genesis Book” came out a few months ago I bought it immediately. It's a concise history of the people and inventions that led to Bitcoin - the perfect title to buy for the shelf.

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Location, Location, Location: Incorporating Crypto Projects On & Offshore

One of the most common questions I get from founding teams of blockchain projects is: where should we set up our business? People expect this to be an easy answer. And there is a common answer: Cayman foundation company (holding company) that owns a BVI corporation (which issues token). But there's a lot more to being a lawyer than suggesting what most people do. And not everyone will be well-served by following this path.

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Maintaining Control Of The Place For Disputes: Jursidictional Considerations

A companion blog post to this explains what goes into where to set up a company. But once a business is set up in a certain places that's not the final word on what laws and countries matter. Businesses need to be careful to try not to have their activities be regulated by places that they don't intend. In order to do that they need to be mindful of their actions, server location(s), who they do business with (along the way to serving their customers), their contracts, and where the people who run their business are located. These are all factors that lawyers can advise on and companies can exert control over. On the other hand, there's a number of factors they have a lot less control over, which might ultimately end up allowing someone to sue or maintain an action in a foreign place.

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Generative AI For Blog Content: A New Experiment

At the top of this page is an interesting experiment in using LLMs (large language models, like ChatGPT) to explore the content of a library of content. In this case, my blog. It scans across all of the blog posts and tries to figure out which ones are relevant, then use the relevant ones to construct an answer to the query/task. It's a great way for people to find content that I might have written years ago, or convert what I've written into easier to understand language. It's much better than keywords for finding certain content, and it synthesizes the content to smaller summaries for the reader.

The service uses lambdas (on AWS) that scan through pre-generated summaries of the articles (or the whole article if it's short enough) to identify the relevant posts. The prompt for this is:

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EEA DeFi Risk Assessment Guidelines: The Legal Section

The Ethereum Enterprise Alliance has written an extensive guide on DeFi risks: Below is a screenshot of the section on legal & compliance risks, which I think is worth mentioning because it's a great example of the views that many have in the crypto space. This section is considerably lighter than that of accounting, even though accounting and tax risks are rarely the reasons why projects shut down or don't get off the ground. So far as I know, no one has gone to jail for having poor accounting controls, but you can go to jail for violating sanctions laws (and some crypto developers have).

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How To Safely Buy Cryptocurrency In Canada

Canada's provincial securities regulators have approved certain companies to sell cryptocurrency. These platforms have the highest standard of regulation that applies, and are the least risky way for Canadians to buy cryptocurrency. For Ontario residents, the Ontario Securities Commission maintains a list of the approved platforms:

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Principles-based Proxy Voting Using LLMs For Blockchains and Traditional Equity

The vast majority of small shareholders don't vote their shares. Many institutional investors do, but even then, many are voting according to recommendations from advisory services. At the individual investor level, votes are essentially meaningless because they're too small in number. And the voting process is uneconomical to them because they don't have the time to consider the candidates or proposals. The return on their investment of time is abysmal. This is a well-known problem in corporate studies. It's also a problem in token governance systems. Is the solution ChatGPT?

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Blockchain Bolognese

I've been a “crypto lawyer” for a decade now. So I did a double-take when I looked at the label on the pasta sauce I'd just eaten: a blockchain authentication label! Blockchains out in the real world. The above picture is the actual pasta sauce I ate. And the link on the QR code goes to this page:

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Seizing Control Of Public Blockchains Using Legal Process

Craig Wright is an individual who claimed to be the rightful owner of billions of dollars of bitcoin, which he said he lost the keys to when he deleted his files. He wanted the crypto back, but without the keys this should be impossible. Mr. Wright came up with a rather unique strategy, that the rest of this blog explains, which should be studied by everyone who writes code for public blockchains or manages a protocol. So far as I know, Mr. Wright is the first person to seriously attempt this method. The basic idea is to ask a court to require the developers to change the code so that bitcoins would be given to him.

Most People Would Say Blockchain Assets Can't Be Seized

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How I Blog: Custom Software

Yesterday I was speaking with a junior lawyer about blogging and explained how I write my posts. They asked me if I'd ever blogged about how I blog, and apparently the answer is no, I haven't ever written a blog post about how I write blog posts. This post explains my custom software for blogging, why I wrote my own blogging software a decade ago, and the advantages of using a static website.

Custom Blogging Software

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The 21st Century Roads: Promoting The Internet

The 20th century saw dirt roads turn into bitumen and concrete highways around the world. Massive government road building projects (and expropriation) constructed streets and highways across the western world and beyond. These roads were all billed to the taxpayer, with the promise being a massive increase in transportation and thus the economy. It was the century of gasoline and diesel. But this approach has been tapped out. New road construction seems almost like a relic as investors push NVIDIA shares beyond the trillion dollar mark and AI fever grips the business world.

Fibre optic lines, satellite Internet, and all the other infrastructure of the digital revolution seem like the highways of the 21st century. Yet governments largely don't build these, and government policy in many countries is now turning against the Internet. Under the banner of public safety, governments are restricting the Internet from various directions, including the introduction of a series of laws in Parliament in my own country, all aimed at reducing online freedom. The premise is that the Internet is a killer, but the number of people killed by the Internet is surely far less than that of road deaths in Canada. The reality of infrastructure is that big benefits aren't free. Roads kill people via the cars that drive on them, the pollution from their construction, and various other negatives that are simply accepted as the cost of boosting economic capacity.

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DAOs Overtaking Traditional Corporations: What Would It Take?

What would it take for DAOs to overtake traditional corporations as the main way that Internet-based businesses are organized?

It's easy to take shots at DAOs but this blog post looks at what it would take for this transformation to actually happen. We're certainly not even close to a world where most tech is built and delivered by DAOs, but there are hints that DAOs can be used for quite a bit of what's currently done by traditional companies. They're starting to be used for funding scientific research or creating digital dollar equivalents. In another sense of the term, some major blockchain networks (e.g. Bitcoin, the first and still largest) might themselves be considered DAOs, and if they're not quite within the definition, they show a bit of the path forward. This article sidesteps definitions, and instead looks forward to what's required to make DAOs mainstream.

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Why Blockchains Can't Achieve Shakespeare's Dream: The Need For Lawyers

Blockchain developers and Shakespeare have in common the same dream: “let's kill all the lawyers”. This blog post explains why the dreams of both aren't possible, by exploring the need for lawyers in complex technological systems.

The Dream: A World Without Lawyers

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Policing Vs. AML: Hiring 35000 More Police In Canada To Fight Financial Crime

It's commonly considered among professionals in the anti-money laundering (AML) field that AML is the ally of police. The reason for this is that AML systems feed data into the police and spy service, which then use this data to inform their investigations. But this concept ignores the reality of AML, which is that it costs money for private businesses to have staff that do AML. AML rules are free to the government but very expensive to the companies they apply to, and those costs are directly passed on to customers. So whether you pay taxes for police or higher prices due to AML, you, the public, are always paying.

A Better Use Of Everyone's Money: Expanding Police

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Fake Identification Documents In the AI Era

Everyone's seen a teenager use a cousin's driver's license or a fake foreign ID card. These have long existed, and the history of all identification documents is a constant battle with counterfeits. But the AI era is not a continuation of that, it's a clear break with the past. Perfect-looking identification documents can be generated, and can be inserted into videos in real-time (or the entire video of the person can be faked). Anyone in doubt about how good these videos are should check out the latest OpenAI demo for generating videos from text prompts (released yesterday): High resolution video replicas of people are here, and they're available to anyone with a computer.

AI Impersonation

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Antiscam: Saving Millions

The vast majority of scams go unreported. No one knows how many people are affected, but I've spoken to many, many people by phone who call me out of the blue looking for advice about dealing with scams. Much of the time they don't realize it's a scam. Lawyers don't normally like these kinds of calls because they're not going to result in work (and might even result in liability for them).

Calls about scams are essentially the same as people calling up plumbers asking for free advice about how to do their own plumbing, or calling up auto garages to ask for advice about fixing an engine. But I'm happy to help out if I can, and feel good about the millions in losses I've helped prevent. I'm positive I've prevented more losses to people calling out of the blue than I've made in legal fees in my decade as a lawyer in private practice.

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Every Wonder How Crypto Scammers Reach Their Victims?

I regularly get calls from people who are the victims of Internet-based fraudsters. I have some fairly standard tips for them (see below!) but there's little that can be done once they're already a victim. Everyone's aware of the amount of online crime but few people know how these crimes happen. How do criminals manage to meet so many people? How do they reach the victims? In many of the cases they do this by placing ads on YouTube, Facebook, and other platforms. The ads lure people into the crimes by pretending to be the official sites of legitimate businesses and then they're robbed by lookalike exchanges, dealers, wallets, or other types of frauds. Below is an example from a YouTube ad I saw recently.

Screenshot of YouTube-based ad scam

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The Elimination Of Money

In the early days of cryptocurrency, there was some discussion of replacing “money”. Today, there's discussion of Central Bank Digital Currencies, modelled on crypto, replacing cash and banknotes. But all of these debates might be missing the larger story: the elimination of money.

As technology improves, the cost of switching between money and assets gets ever closer to zero. The interchange between CAD and USD is now close to zero (Wise). Cryptocurrency to cash can be under 0.25% (most dealers). Cash to stocks can be zero (Robinhood). Some assets have high transactional costs, like real estate, but the securitized version, REITs, are stocks that transact at near zero. All around us, the transactional costs are rapidly falling.

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A Concise History And Timeline Of Canadian Cryptocurrency Law

Canadians have played a key role in the development of the global cryptocurrency industry. At every stage, Canadian lawmakers and regulators have been closely following developments and issuing guidance or amending laws. To my knowledge, no one has written a concise history of the developments of the last decade. This blog post is my attempt to do so, with links to the underlying guidance, staff notices, interpretation bulletins, statutory amendments, and regulations.

The First Rules: Taxes

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Thank You To Colleagues And Clients: Closing Out 2023

Christmas tree generated by DALL-E

As we come to the end of 2023, the holiday season is always a time to reflect on what's gone well and think about the people who've helped make our lives better.

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