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Thumbs Up Emoji Can Legally Seal a Contract, Canadian Judge Rules

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A Canadian judge has ruled that the “thumbs up” emoji can be used to legally bind a contract. The ruling came in a case involving a farmer who sent a thumbs up emoji in response to a text message from a grain buyer. The grain buyer then sued the farmer for breach of contract when the farmer failed to deliver the agreed-upon amount of flax.

In an affidavit, the farmer, Chris Achter, said he did not have time to review the contract and the thumbs up was just acknowledgment of receipt, and not an acceptance of the contract.

I deny that he accepted the thumbs-up emoji as a digital signature of the incomplete contract. I did not have time to review the Flax Contract and merely wanted to indicate that I did receive his text message,” Achter said in an affidavit.

The judge in the case, T.J. Keene, found that the thumbs up emoji was a valid way to express assent to the contract terms. Justice Keene took sides with the grain buyer, relying on Dictionary.com’s definition of the emoji which states that the emoji is used to “express assent, approval, or encouragement in digital communications, especially in Western cultures.” The court, in its verdict, ordered the farmer to pay C$82,000 ($61,442) for breach of contract.

Background of the story

The grain buyer, Kent Mickleborough, sent a mass text message to clients in March 2021, advertising that his company was looking to buy 86 tonnes of flax at a price of C$17 ($12.73) per bushel. He then spoke with the farmer – Chris Achter – on the phone and texted a picture of a contract to deliver the flax in November. He accompanied the contract with a request asking the farmer to “please confirm flax contract” in the message.

Achter, afterwards, responded with an emoji, but failed to deliver the flax by November, a time when prices had already increased. This led to Mickleborough suing the farmer for failure to deliver the amount of flax agreed upon.

The case, which was heard at the Court of King’s Bench in the province of Saskatchewan, referenced cases from Israel, New York State and some tribunals in Canada, etc., in a bid to unearth what a 👍 emoji means. The court then “acknowledges that a 👍 emoji is a non-traditional means to ‘sign’ a document but nevertheless under these circumstances, this was a valid way to convey the two purposes of a ‘signature’.”

The ruling has been met with mixed reactions. Some people have praised the judge for recognizing the changing nature of communication in the digital age. Others have expressed concern that the ruling could lead to misunderstandings and legal disputes.

What does this mean?

The ruling in this case means that you need to be careful about how you use emojis in contracts. If you send an emoji that could be interpreted as assent to the terms of a contract, you may be legally bound by that contract.

It is also important to note that the ruling in this case is specific to Canada. The laws governing the use of emojis in contracts may vary from country to country.

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When I'm not reading about tech, I'm writing about it, or thinking about the next weird food combinations to try. I do all these with my headphones plugged in, and a sticky note on my computer with the words: "The galaxy needs saving, Star Lord."
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