A judge in Canada has ruled that a “thumbs up” emoji not only constitutes an agreement to a contract, but is no less binding than an actual signature.
Photographers and creative professionals should be careful how they respond to a client, especially in this age of casual emails and off-the-cuff text messaging. As reported by The Guardian, a judge in the province of Saskatchewan recently heard a case where a grain buyer sent a mass text message to clients that advertised it was looking to buy 86 tons of flax at a price of $17 Canadian dollars per bushel.
The buyer, who spoke with a farmer on the phone and received a contract via text message, was asked to confirm receipt and “please confirm flax contract” in the message. The buyer responded with a thumbs-up emoji.
The buyer later tried to back out of the deal when the price of flax changed, but the seller argued that the thumbs up indicated the buyer had agreed to the terms of the contract. The buyer argued that the emoji only indicated that he had received the contract, not that he necessarily agreed that it constituted a binding agreement to the contract’s contents.
The court agreed with the seller.
“This court readily 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’,” Justice Timothy Keene wrote in his ruling.
The judge also dismissed the defense’s argument that allowing the “thumbs up” emoji to serve as accepting a contract would “open up the flood gates” to interpretations of other emojis, including the “fist bump” and “handshake.” Justice Keene replied that the court did not have the ability to stem the tide of technology and the common use of emojis.
The ruling only applies to Canada at this point but does illustrate a situation that could very easily find itself replicated in the United States and Europe. In short, as mentioned, creative professionals should be careful how they digitally respond to clients, as there is now precedent that colloquial uses of emojis can be binding.
Image credits: Header photo licensed via Depositphotos.