News Roundup: Contracts and…Emojis?

Once a week we take a look at what’s happening in the news in regards to contracts. This week proved to be very modern indeed—here’s how emojis and contracts come into the same topic.

One would think that it’s not often that the words “emojis” and “contracts” are spoken in the same sentence. It’s surprising then, that last year there were at least 33 court cases that involved emojis, a figure that is reported to be increasing.

Last year, a judge ruled in favor of a landlord renting out his apartment after he received a series of emojis from a couple looking to rent. The landlord took the emojis to mean that the couple agreed to rent the apartment and subsequently took down the listing. Once they stopped responding, however, he sued them and the case went to court.

The series of emojis in question was a smiley face, a comet, a champagne bottle, dancing girls, and a chipmunk. While this may seem like a random assortment that likely wouldn’t imply a rental agreement, after reviewing the emojis, the couple was ordered to pay a month’s rent. The judge’s reasoning? The emojis indicated optimism and excitement. Even though it may not have been a binding agreement, the emojis communicated the desire to rent, and thus the couple negotiated in bad faith.

Confusion about emojis in regards to law is becoming a more common trend. The “unamused face” emoji has raised the question of what it even means, so much so that it was heavily debated among lawyers at the Emoji Law 101 gathering in Atlanta, GA. The “tongue sticking out” emoji was used in a defamation dispute to prove an online comment was not indeed defamatory, as it could no longer be taken seriously. Even a simple smiley face that followed the title “My will” in a man’s phone indicated to a judge that the note was not a valid document.

Emojis are just one example of how modern communication methods are continuously changing, another indication of how our world, largely through the use of technology, is reshaping itself, requiring us to adapt. And that’s not only in our personal lives. Business processes are being forced to become more responsive and agile, ready to change course and react to whatever the market may throw at them. For Legal, this may look like amending terms and conditions according to both processes changes and cultural trends, especially where employees are concerned, to mitigate and manage risk.

Times are changing. Keep up and adapt or fall behind. What’s the emoji for that?