Leg@l IT Live: Legal Framework for IT and Commerce

[this post is one of a series covering the Leg@l IT Conference]

Michel A. Solis, from Solis Juritech, and John D. Gregory, from the Attorney-General Office (Ontario), presented the session titled “Le cadre juridique des TCI dans les provinces de common law”. Michel piqued the interest of the audience right from the start with the innocuous question “does an email provide the same legal value as a formal letter?”, before he turned the podium over the John.

After briefly referring to 1996 – UNCITRAL Model Law on Electronic Commerce, the 2001 – UNCITRAL Model Law on Electronic Signatures and the 2005 – United Nations Convention on the Use of Electronic Communications in International Contracts; John discussed the legal framework for IT and commerce along the following lines:

  • Principles: e-commerce should be neutral with regards to the medium used to conduct transactions and, in addition, be technology-neutral, minimalist, provide equivalent reliability (but not more… fraud exists in paper-based environments; electronic environments should not be subject to exacting reliability requirements that go beyond their paper-based counterparts), consent, security, legal neutrality (i.e. no regulations);
  • Rules: no discrimination by reason of the medium, available for later review, signature: intention and form (John noted that in some cases an email header was deemed a valid signature), original: integrity, conservation: integrity and access, sending and receiving: presumptions, correction and rescission, exceptions.

Michel Solis, next, entertained us with a few good stories (I really like his sense of humour!) before he invited us to consider more carefully a variety of examples and issues relating to the formation of an electronic contract, for example, what happens when emails are filtered by a corporate firewall? Michel provided us with a realistic scenario showing how this could lead to litigation. Among other topics, Michel discussed how the LCCJTI (see the Act), s. 3, treated paper and emails as equivalents; and also how the LCCJTI sets presumptions (s. 31) with regards to proof of sending and receiving emails. Michel concluded his presentation with a word of caution: there is danger in too much security – companies must still be able to conduct business; too much security prevents them from conducting business efficiently…

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