Isha Marathe: Emojis Are Increasingly Legally Binding. But They’re Still Open to Wide Interpretation

Extract from Isha Marathe’s article “Emojis Are Increasingly Legally Binding. But They’re Still Open to Wide Interpretation”

A Canadian farmer in the province of Saskatchewan is liable to pay thousands for undelivered flax thanks to a “thumbs-up” emoji he apparently didn’t realize had legal impact—and he isn’t the first person to experience such repercussions in North America.

On June 8, a judge presiding over the case South West Terminal Ltd. v. Achter Land & Cattle in the court of King’s Bench for Saskatchewan ruled that a buyer who sent a contract to a seller and received a thumbs up emoji over text in response is right to think that the emoji was as legally binding as a signature.

For contract attorneys, the Canadian case was interesting, but not all that surprising. They told Legaltech News that lawsuits over the meaning of an emoji in a legal context have ramped up in recent years, with tens of such cases each year in the U.S. alone.

However, overarching guidance on the topic of emojis as legally binding is still lacking, with many factors, such as the circumstances of a case and the specific judge, deciding what an emoji might mean. Still, attorneys cautioned that businesses and clients be very careful what emoji they send in response to not only a business contract, but also to less formal text message.

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