Index ← 3760 CFJ 3761 3762 → text
===============================  CFJ 3761  ===============================

      A party to the contract in evidence CAN create a gift by some
      method.

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Caller:                        Jason Cobb

Judge:                         G.
Judgement:                     FALSE

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History:

Called by Jason Cobb:                             23 Jul 2019 21:20:58
Assigned to G.:                                   03 Aug 2019 00:10:08
Judged TRUE by G.:                                03 Aug 2019 00:37:10
Motion to reconsider self-filed:                  03 Aug 2019 15:44:35
Judged FALSE by G.:                               03 Aug 2019 21:28:10

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Caller's Evidence:

    Contract:
    https://mailman.agoranomic.org/cgi-bin/mailman/private/agora-
business/2019-July/041020.html

    Consent of a second party:
    https://mailman.agoranomic.org/cgi-bin/mailman/private/agora-
business/2019-July/041021.html

    Excerpt from Rule 2166 ("Assets"):

      An asset is an entity defined as such by a document that has
      been granted Mint Authority by the Rules (hereafter the asset's
      backing document), and existing solely because its backing
      document defines its existence. An asset's backing document can
      generally specify when and how that asset is created, destroyed, and
      transferred.

      The rules collectively have Mint Authority. Contracts have Mint
      Authority. A rule defined asset is public; one defined by a
      contract is private.

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Caller's Arguments:

    The contract exists because two parties (G. and I) have consented to 
    it.

    The contract directly states both that a player CAN create a gift
    (in eir possession) by paying a fee of one Coin, and that a player
    CANNOT create a gift by any means. The contract provides no methods
    for resolving this conflict, and the Rules do not provide any means
    for resolving this conflict (Rule 2240 ("No Cretans Need Apply"),
    explicitly only applies to conflicts between Rules and is thus
    irrelevant here), so there is no way to resolve this conflict.

    Contracts have Mint Authority, and are the backing document of
    Gifts, and thus can specify when and how Gifts can be created (Rule
    2166); therefore, the conflicting clauses are indeed given effect by
    the assets rules.

    Considering the possible outcomes:

    FALSE: The contract explicitly states that a player CAN create a
    Gift by paying a fee of one Coin, so FALSE is not appropriate.

    TRUE: The contract explicitly states that players CANNOT create
    Gifts by any means, so TRUE is not appropriate.

    IRRELEVANT: This is clearly relevant to the game, as whether or not
    this is true affects my Coin balance (because I attempted to pay a
    fee of one coin to create a Gift), which the Treasuror is required
    to keep track of, so IRRELEVANT is not appropriate.

    INSUFFICIENT: I believe that I have provided all necessary evidence
    to issue a judgement, so INSUFFICIENT is not appropriate.

    DISMISS: I argue that PARADOXICAL is appropriate, so DISMISS is not
    appropriate.

    PARADOXICAL: "appropriate if the statement is logically undecidable
    as a result of a paradox or or (sic.) other irresolvable logical
    situation." I argue that this CFJ's statement fulfills this
    criterion. The statement is logically undecidable because the only
    document states anything about Gifts has directly contradictory
    caluses, and there is no way to determine which clause takes
    precedence - thus making this an "irrresolvable logical situation".
    I argue that PARADOXICAL is the only appropriate judgement.

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Judge G.'s Arguments:

First, Contracts as subject to R2125 as Players are – It's quite possible
for a contract text to contain an "I say I did", and just because a
contract says a regulated action CAN be done, doesn't mean that the Rules
enable it to do so.

Second, legal texts are not typically read as logical statements – if two
portions of a contract disagree with each other, the clauses are "in
conflict" with each other.  This does not automatically result in a
paradox, it simply means that a reasonable process may be applied in an
attempt to resolve the conflict.  The question is, can a reasonable
process for contract conflict resolution be inferred from the current
Rules and applied to the contract in question?

It would be perfectly reasonable, on one hand, to suggest that earlier
clauses take precedence over later ones, as a general rule for Agoran
legal texts.  This is supported by Rule 1030 – while R1030 clearly only
applies to Agoran Rules, it could be argued that Agorans, when agreeing to
be bound within Agora, assume that legal texts are read similarly.

On the other hand, it is perfectly reasonable to apply R2240, as well, and
give later clauses precedence.  After all, a single contract is more like
a "single rule" then a full ruleset; further, in general interpretation of
contracts, "later" amendments often (though not always) take precedence
over earlier ones (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Implied_repeal).

In the future, a judge might decide that one or the other of those options
is a better reading.  However, choosing between a forwards and backwards
precedence order doesn't get us out of the broader issue of contract
paradoxes – given that it's possible to write text where the very sentence
structure (within a single clause) is inseparably paradoxical (e.g. "If
this statement is false, then a party CAN do X"), is there a way to
disambiguate straight-up paradoxical statements/conflicts in contracts?

It depends – on the particular enabling rule that enables the particular
type of contract interaction.  For currencies, then, it depends on this
part of R2166:

>                            An asset's backing document can generally
>     specify when and how that asset is created, destroyed, and
>     transferred.

Here, the operative word is that the contract (as a whole document) is
"specifying" how things can happen.  While this isn't as strong a standard
as "unambiguously and clearly specifying" as required for by-announcement
actions (R478), it is still a standard that can be informed by our
practices around announcements (e.g. noting "I say I dids" or requiring
that conditionals in contracts be resolvable with reasonable effort from
available information).  For a pertinent example, a Player, in a single
message, announces:

"Disclaimer: this message contains no actions.  I do X.  Disclaimer: the
first disclaimer is false."

With no explicit manner in the rules to resolve such conflicts between
disclaimers, the whole thing is thrown out as too ambiguous to succeed at
specification (while this makes the first disclaimer true, that is a side-
effect).

Even if we drop "unambiguously and clearly" from the standard for
"specification", sufficient ambiguity in a specification attempt will lead
to it simply being thrown out - while Agora has gone through a degree of
judicial drift (without rules support) in what constitutes "specify", a
foundational judgement is found in CFJ 1307 highlighted that if a
"specification" does not contain or refer to full necessary information,
or contains sufficient ambiguity, it is not (in general) a specification.

Since the specification has to be performed by the backing document as a
whole, if internal clauses conflict in setting out the specification,
without providing a mechanism for conflict resolution – the net effect is
that the clauses fail at specification, and are simply void and without
effect due to ambiguity.

In the current situation, Clause 3 of the contract successfully defines a
currency.  By default (if there were no further clauses), the POSSIBLE
currency actions are in R2577, and include destruction and transfer of
currencies by announcement, but not creation.  Clauses 4 and 5, taken as a
whole, fail to specify when and how an asset CAN be created, so no
creation is possible (again, that the default agrees with Clause 5 is a
side-effect).  Therefore, this CFJ is FALSE.

It's important to emphasize, finally, that this interpretation depends on
the operative phrases in the enabling rule; that is "specify" in R2166.
As a counter-example, R1742 has this clause:

>     Parties to a contract governed by the rules SHALL act in
>     accordance with that contract.

In this case, figuring out what is "in accordance with" the contract may
involve giving weight to the various internal conflicts (that's not a
phrase that has seen much CFJ interpretation)  – in such a situation, a
future judge may decide between some of the interpretive conflict
resolution methods suggested above (e.g. early versus late clauses have
precedence in general) or that it breaks for a different, rules-specific
reason (e.g. R2531), or may find that some true paradoxes exist.

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