Category Archives: Legal News

Chris Odom: ‘Bitcoins are Not Under Legal Law, They’re Under Cryptographic Law’

By Kyle Torpey Nov 19, 2015 1:30 PM EST

Smart contract is a term that gets thrown around quite often in the Bitcoin community, but the reality is not many people truly understand why these types of cryptographic contracts are useful and secure. Smart contracts can come with varying levels of complexity, and one of the most widely-used smart contracts right now is a basic Bitcoin transaction. At the recent Bitcoin Investor Conference in Las Vegas, Stash Co-Founder Chris Odomexplained the key attribute of a smart contract that makes it different from a legal contract.

Smart Contracts Don’t Need a Court of Law

During his remarks on smart contracts, Chris Odom made it clear that the self-executing properties of these sorts of contracts are what separate them from the legal contracts that have been used in the past. He explained:

“The distinguishing factor of a smart contract is that it’s self executing. It executes on its own. You see, most contracts that people make in the legal world are contracts that are designed so that someday they have to be enforced in the court of law; they have to be legally enforced, and so they’re written that way. They’re written based on, you know, ‘We’re going to expect that if we have to enforce this it will be in a court of law, and therefore, all these terms are written based on that assumption.”

Odom also noted that the point of a smart contract is to — at least partially — avoid the legal system in its entirety. He explained that the preferred smart contracts are the ones that automate the enforcement of the contract and do not require the use of a court:

“The last thing you want on a [smart] contract is something saying that it’s enforceable in court. That, ‘Hey, if you use this smart contract, you’re going to end up in court!’ Who wants to sign that? That’s your worst nightmare. When I’m picking a smart contract, I want something that will securely flow the money properly according to its terms and will not land me in court.”

Smart Contracts Automate the Flow of Money

Another key point made by Odom during his presentation is that smart contracts are mostly about automating the flow of money between the parties associated with a particular contract. Instead of having a judge decide the outcome of a contract, a smart contract can automatically trigger a transfer of funds based on a set of parameters defined by computer code. Odom noted:

“A real smart contract is something that automates money flows. It does escrow; it does surety bonds; it does insurance. These are the sorts of things that we’re building with our smart contracts. They automate the money flow. The money goes in here; after so many days, it automatically goes over there, unless a dispute gets triggered, and then maybe an oracle has to come online — or a dispute mediator or arbitrator.”

Smart Contracts Operate Under Cryptographic Law

During his presentation, Chris Odom also told a short story about a lawyer who was recently trying to understand smart contracts and how they work. Odom told the lawyer there is one important statement that should be included in any smart contract:

“Here’s what you want to put in a smart contract. Here’s how you know when you’re writing a smart contract instead of a normal, legal contract. The first thing you put at the top of the contract is ‘This contract will not be enforceable in a court of law.’”

Odom claims the lawyer did not seem to understand the point of a contract that could not be enforced in a court of law, so he went on to describe his point in further detail:

“First of all, courts of law are not able to enforce these [contracts] anyway. Imagine that you’re in court, and there’s a judge, and she says, ‘I have ruled those bitcoins shall be moved to that address.’ But it doesn’t happen. Even though she has robes, a nice chair, and a bailiff with muscles, the bitcoins don’t move. You have to have the private key to move the bitcoins because bitcoins are not under legal law, they’re under cryptographic law. It’s a new form of law that’s coming into existence.”

In short, smart contracts do not require a court or a judge to be enforced. Not only do these types of contracts not operate within the current legal system, but as Odom explained, it is sometimes impossible to enforce the rule of law on what is essentially nothing more than computer code.


Kyle Torpey is a freelance journalist who has been following Bitcoin since 2011. His work has been featured on VICE Motherboard, Business Insider, RT’s Keiser Report, and many other media outlets. You can follow@kyletorpey on Twitter.

Full Article – http://insidebitcoins.com/news/chris-odom-bitcoins-are-not-under-legal-law-theyre-under-cryptographic-law/35915

Legal Experts Urge Caution as Tribes Enter Pot Business

  • By MARY HUDETZ, ASSOCIATED PRESS

SANTA FE, N.M. — Nov 18, 2015, 10:47 PM ET

Tribes across the U.S. are finding marijuana is risky business nearly a year after a Justice Department policy indicated they could grow and sell pot under the same guidelines as states.

Federal raids on tribal cannabis operations in California followed by a South Dakota tribe’s move this month to burn its crop amid fears it could be next have raised questions over whether there’s more to complying with DOJ standards than a department memo suggested last December.

The uncertainty — blamed partly on thin DOJ guidelines, the fact that marijuana remains an illegal drug under federal laws, and a complex tangle of state, federal and tribal law enforcement oversight on reservations— has led attorneys to urge tribal leaders to weigh the risks involved before moving forward with legalizing and growing pot.

“Everybody who is smart is pausing to look at the feasibility and risks of growing hemp and marijuana,” said Lance Gumbs, a former chairman of the Shinnecock Tribe in New York and regional vice president of the National Congress of American Indians. “But are we giving up on it? Absolutely not.”

At a conference on tribal economic development held in Santa Fe, tribal leaders and attorneys said Wednesday that the raids have shown there may be more red tape for tribes to negotiate when it comes to legalizing cannabis than states have faced.

That’s especially the case for tribes that are within states where marijuana is not legal. In those cases, tribes may face the challenge of figuring out how to bring cannabis seeds onto reservations without crossing a state jurisdiction, and sheriffs and state officials are bound to be less approving of marijuana, said Blake Trueblood, director of business development for the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development, host of the conference.

The DOJ memo sent to U.S. attorneys last December directed them not to prioritize prosecuting federal marijuana laws in most cases where tribes legalized the drug for medical or recreational use. The memo calls for tribes to follow an eight-point policy standard that includes taking measures to keep pot out of the hands of children and criminal networks, and not transport it across federal or state jurisdictions where it remains illegal.

“Industrial hemp, medical marijuana and maybe recreational marijuana present a lot of opportunity. But for now, the best advice is to proceed with caution,” said Michael Reif, an attorney for the Menominee tribe in Wisconsin, where tribal leaders filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday after federal agents recently destroyed hemp plants grown for research. “We’re seeing the ramifications of things being unclear in a way states didn’t.”

The Flandreau Santee Sioux in South Dakota — a state where marijuana isn’t legal — was the first to approve recreational pot under tribal law with a vote in June, and was one of the most aggressive about entering the industry, with plans to open the nation’s first marijuana resort on its reservation north of Sioux Falls.

But after weeks of discussions with authorities who signaled a possible raid, the tribe announced last week it had burned all of its marijuana plants. Anthony Reider, the tribe’s president, told The Associated Press the main holdup centered on whether the tribe could sell marijuana to non-Indians, along with issues over where the seed used for planting originated.

He suggested that by burning the crops, the tribe could have a clean slate to relaunch a grow operation in consultation with authorities.

In California, the Alturas and Pit River Indian rancherias’ marijuana operations were raided by federal authorities, with agents seizing 12,000 marijuana plants in July. The regional U.S. attorney’s office said in a statement that the two neighboring tribes planned to distribute the pot off tribal lands and the large-scale operations may have been financed by a foreign third-party.

It’s not clear if the two tribes have plans for new marijuana ventures, and calls from the AP were not immediately returned.

The California and South Dakota tribes are three of just about a half-dozen so far this year that have legalized medical or recreational marijuana on their reservations.

The Squaxin Island Tribe in Washington state is another, and just opened a store last week for retail sales of the drug. But most expect the tribe to face fewer legal challenges because Washington allows for recreational marijuana use and the tribe entered into a compact with the state that sets guidelines for taxing pot sales.

“The tribes are not going to be immune to what the local attitudes toward marijuana are going to be,” Trueblood said. “If there’s one 30,000-feet takeaway from this year, it’s that you’re not going to be successful if you don’t work with your local governments or U.S. attorneys.”

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Follow Mary Hudetz on Twitter at http://twitter.com/marymhudetz. Her work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/journalist/mary-hudetz

Neopets accused of violating California business law

Hoang Tran

Nov. 4, 2015, 9:53am

LOS ANGELES (Legal Newsline) – A virtual pet game service is facing a lawsuit over allegations it violated California business codes.

John Doe, on behalf of himself and those similarly situated, filed a class-action lawsuit on Oct. 27 in the California Central District Court against Neopets, Inc. for allegedly violating California’s Automatic Renewal Law and California’s Unfair Competition Law, as well as for failure to obtain consumers’ consent and provide acknowledgement of automatic renewal.

The plaintiff alleges that Neopets, which provides a subscription for its virtual pet and games products/services, made automatic renewal or continuous service offers to consumers throughout California, but failed to present the terms in a clear and conspicuous manner and in visual proximity to the request for consent to the offer before the subscription or purchasing agreement was fulfilled. The plaintiff also alleges that the defendants charged the plaintiff’s credit or debit card, or third-party account without first obtaining the plaintiff’s consent. The plaintiff argues that the defendant failed to provide an acknowledgment that includes the automatic renewal or continuous service offer terms, cancellation policy, and information regarding how to cancel.

The plaintiff is suing for damages and full restitution in the amount of the subscription payments already made. He also wants injunctive relief, attorney costs and any other rewards deemed just by the court. The plaintiff is represented by Scott J. Ferrell, Richard H. Hikida, David W. Reid and Victoria C. Knowles of the office of Newport Trial Group in Newport Beach, California.

U.S. District Court, California Central District Court Case number 2:15-cv-08395-DMG-PLA

Full Article – http://legalnewsline.com/stories/510646459-neopets-accused-for-violating-california-business-law

Charlie Sheen Is HIV-Positive – Could His Exes Sue Him?

11/16/2015 AT 10:05 PM EST

Charlie Sheen will tell the world about his HIV diagnosis on Tuesday – a secret he kept hidden partially out of concern he’d face legal consequences, sources say.

“The interview could open up a lot of sympathy for him, but he has to be concerned about a fear of litigation from former sexual partners,” Howard Bragman, a Hollywood publicist and crisis manager approached by those close to Sheen, told PEOPLE of Tuesday’s scheduled Today show sitdown. “You don’t take that lightly.”

Now, the question is when Sheen learned he has HIV and whether any of his exes are at risk. Could the Two and a Half Men star really face charges if he didn’t tell sexual partners about his condition?

In California, it’s illegal to intentionally pass on a sexually transmitted disease – so the state would have to prove Sheen desired to “use HIV as a weapon,” saysScott Burris, the director of the Center for Health Law, Policy and Practice and a professor at Temple University’s Beasley School of Law. Burris is not aware of a single case in which that was proven.

“California has one of the narrowest laws. It’s unlikely that he intended to infect anybody,” he tells PEOPLE. “But who knows where he had sex, and there are states with different laws, and in some of them, it’s enough to expose someone to fluids. In fact, in some states you can be charged even if you used a condom.”

Burris is a vocal proponent of decriminalizing HIV, pointing to research showing putting people behind bars doesn’t reduce the spread of the disease and only “makes people hide.”

But there’s nothing to stop Sheen’s past sexual partners – he’s admitted to soliciting prostitutes, was married three times and once lived with two girlfriends he called “goddesses” – from going to court if they contracted HIV from him.

“He is at risk at losing civil judgments to all the lovers that he’s had if he knew that he was infected and never told them,” Susan Moss, a family law attorney at Chemtob Moss & Forman, tells PEOPLE.

Moss says someone who contracted HIV from Sheen could sue for millions, and that even exes who didn’t get HIV – but slept with him if he had it and did not disclose that – could file civil suits.

“I could only imagine the level of emotional distress that a person is put under when they find out that somebody they had unprotected sex with probably multiple times has this disease and never told them,” she says. “Plus, now everyone in Hollywood is going to know that they’ve been exposed to somebody with HIV, and that also can affect their future relationships. All of these things are actionable.”

Yet as Catherine Hanssens and Allison Nichol from the Center of HIV Law & Policy – which seeks to protect the rights of those living with the virus – stress, HIV has become a manageable medical condition.

“I’m worried that people are talking about HIV as if it is a deadly disease and asking these type of questions 35 years into the epidemic. It’s a little bit like asking us what we would do if we found out that the moon was made out of green cheese,” says Hanssens, the center’s executive director and founder. “HIV is hard to transmit, and it’s very easy to prevent transmission.”

“Many people’s view of HIV is sort of stuck in the 80s and the early ’90s, and I think there’s a lack of information on the part of the American public. The understanding of what it means to be a person with HIV in 2015 is lacking,” adds Nichol, the organization’s co-director. “HIV is viewed as much more on par with someone who has type I diabetes than what people’s I think internal view of this going back to the early 80s is.”

This means any lawsuits, even by people who may have contracted HIV from the actor, wouldn’t be easily won, Burris says.

“His case also reflects the fact that in a very real way, treatment has changed the equation. If he is infected and has been getting treatment that is successfully suppressing the virus in his system, he’s not at terrible risk of infecting anybody, because it’s now our national policy to get people on treatment so that they won’t transmit the virus,” he explains.

Moreover, Sheen’s playboy reputation could work in his favor. In a negligence case, his partners arguably would have known that he has been in more than one relationship in his life, and by today’s standards should have practiced safe sex, Harris says.

“Charlie Sheen is a well known public figure. I don’t think it could possibly be a credible claim that people did not know he was a person who was perhaps sexually active with more than one individual. I think you have to make that presumption about anyone unless it’s someone that you’ve been in a longterm, exclusive relationship with,” Nichol says, arguing that “there’s a shared responsibility for sexual health.”

It’s an issue that reaches far beyond Sheen’s bombshell revelation. Laws punishing people for transmitting STDs have been scaled back as new information about and treatments for them emerge, and people like Hanssens and Nicho dedicate their lives to destigmatizing HIV.

Still, there’s an ideological divide.

“We’re puzzled because we don’t think we would be having a conversation if Charlie Sheen had come out with diabetes or cancer, and neither of us could recall any kind of similar questions when Farrah Fawcett was diagnosed with anal cancer and Michael Douglas was diagnosed with throat cancer, both of which were caused by sexually transmitted diseases,” Hanssens says. “So why, in 2015, the focus in 2015 on Charlie Sheen’s HIV status?”

But Moss believes people who deceive their sexual partners should be held accountable by the law.

“I think if you put somebody at risk for a life-threatening disease, you are as dangerous as a criminal as somebody who points a gun at another person,” she says. “There’s no difference. Your weapon is sex, their weapon is a gun.”

Mr Bean star Rowan Atkinson’s wife granted divorced on grounds of his ‘unreasonable behaviour’

ACTOR Rowan Atkinson’s wife has been granted a divorce on the grounds of his “unreasonable behaviour”.

The Mr Bean and Blackadder star was not present at the brief proceedings in central London.

Estranged wife Sunetra was granted a decree nisi against the 60-year-old by a district judge at the Central Family Court.

Atkinson married the make-up artist in 1990.

Divorce papers made public today did not give any details relating to the unreasonable behaviour ground.

Listed as Atkinson S D v R S, the case was the fourth in a list of 26 before District Judge Stephen Alderson for decrees and orders to be made under the “quickie” procedure.

The County Durham-born actor and his wife, who have two children, are reported to have split last year.

Andrew Newbury, head of family law at Slater and Gordon, said: “Unreasonable behaviour is the most common ground for divorce.

“Even in the happiest of marriages, it’s always possible to find behaviour which can be described as unreasonable.”

Mr Newbury said such behaviour could include complaints that “she talks too much”, or “he never listens”, or that a husband “always wants to go out with friends”.

He added: “Although described as granting a divorce, the divorce itself won’t be made final until Sunetra Atkinson applies for the decree absolute.

“She can do that six weeks after today. She may well be advised by her lawyers to delay the application until the financial settlement has been agreed. It could be many months before the divorce is final.”

Read Full Article – http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/entertainment/celebrity/mr-bean-star-rowan-atkinsons-6805304