==============================  CFJ 2786  ==============================

    /dev/null (formerly an Agoran contract) is an entity

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Caller:                                 ais523

Judge:                                  G.
Judgement:                              FALSE

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History:

Called by ais523:                       22 Apr 2010 15:11:41 GMT
Assigned to G.:                         25 Apr 2010 15:08:02 GMT
Judged FALSE by G.:                     30 Apr 2010 20:16:33 GMT

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Caller's Arguments:

/dev/null was a contract with no parties, and the following text:

> This contract is a pledge, titled "/dev/null". The player known as
> root CAN join this contract by announcement; no other person may do
> so. Parties to this contract CAN leave it by announcement, and MUST
> do so immediately.

Arguments:
CFJ 2769 found that the IBA, an agreement between many Agorans to trade
assets in a defined manner, survived the repeal of Agoran contracts, and
continued to exist as an entity beyond that (although, of course, it was
no longer enforceable under Agoran law at that point, nor probably any
other law either). Quoting Judge coppro's arguments:

> Binding agreements not governed by the rules can and do exist, and are
> therefore valid Agoran entities. By legal convention, a binding
> agreement (I will avoid the term 'contract' when referring to real-world
> agreements) needs no physical existence; it can exist without any
> document behind it, such as when an agreement is formed at a grocery
> store to purchase a box of donuts.

There exists one curiosity not covered by this judgement, which could
theoretically have an effect on play (although at the moment,
unfortunately no non-fixed assets with no ownership restriction exist,
so I can't demonstrate by trying to transfer one to it), which is the
former contract /dev/null (see evidence). Its unusual feature was that
it was a binding agreement between no people (which was possible due to
a bug in the rules at the time). Now, it makes sense for an agreement
between two or more people to persist after its legal basis is repealed;
a promise made by one person can also be binding outside Agora, and
likewise can continue on unregulated after the Agoran rules after the
rules concerning contracts are repealed. However, an agreement between
no people is a hard concept to express; arguably, it was purely a legal
fiction before the repeal of contracts, rather than codifying something
that existed in the real world. In such a case, it's entirely possible
that it existed solely due to the contract rules, in which case their
repeal would cause it to cease to exist.

On the other hand, in a way /dev/null does still continue to exist; it's
possible to discuss it and some of its properties, for instance. Even
though it would take a very insane legal system for enforcing it to even
make sense, it's pretty much undisputed what its text and membership
would be if it existed, for instance; and it's possible to call CFJs
about it (I doubt this CFJ will be ruled to be meaningless due to a lack
of referent in its topic!) This sort of usage implies that the former
contract does still exist in some sense, even though it isn't a sort of
construct which has a name, or a real-life purpose.

(A third possibility is that /dev/null never existed in the first place;
the rules were never particularly clear on the matter of
contract-as-legal-fiction vs. contract-as-codification-of-agreement, and
in the case of /dev/null, that really showed. However, as far as I know,
consensus was that it did exist; and two CFJs, 2159 (the original) and
2161 (covering a hypothetical situation that actually happened

<http://agora.qoid.us/rule/1742#562515>) found that the contract
existed, and would continue/continued to exist despite the rule changes
that fixed the original bug.)

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Judge G.'s Arguments:

When we ask, in a legal CFJ, "Does X exist?" the appropriate response
will vary depending on the purported category of existence of the entity
in question.  (Here, I am reading the question "X is an entity" as
equivalent to "The entity X currently exists" as "is" strongly implies
an existence question in this context).

In particular, there are two categories of existence to distinguish:

1.  The physical existence of a real entity.  Whether or not a purported
entity acknowledged by the rules (e.g. a person) or not (e.g. the Moon),
it is reasonable to base a judgement on a preponderance of evidence for
the entity's existence (e.g. reasonable research by a judge would reveal
that the Moon most likely exists, therefore leading to a "true").
Standards for such entities ceasing to exist are based on common
definitions for the entity, but, solipsism aside, determining existence
is a fact-finding exercise.  In particular, this category of existence
is *not* governed by Rule 1586.

2.  The legal existence of a document-defined entity.  In this case, a
document's contents describe an entity; if the document is given "legal
force" than the described entity is said to exist.  Whether or not such
an item  "exists in reality" is a matter for debate in mathematical and
philosophical contexts since the time of Plato ("does a Line, as defined
in the document Euclid's Elements, actually exist?"), but in legal and
mathematical contexts it is also tautology; if you subscribe ("believe
in", or "are a party to") to the legal document (system of axioms) in
question, then a described entity exists for proofs (mathematical or
legal) made within that system.  This type of existence *is* governed
by R1586.

The caller confounds the two types of existence in eir arguments.  The
of a copy of said document, falls into the first category.  This sort of
existence is trivially true for /dev/null (I can confirm a copy exists
in a cache on my machine) and is the only sort of existence required for
us to "discuss it and some of its properties".  However, our history of
the use of "entities" and "existence" with respect to contracts implies
the second type of existence is what's really in the caller's question;
that is, does the entity defined in the /dev/null document exist?  So a
trivial 'true' does not answer the CFJ, although it answers some of the
caller's discussion.

In the words of R1586:
      If the documents defining an entity are repealed or amended such
      that they no longer define that entity, then that entity and its
      properties cease to exist.

Now what's confusing is that there are two documents in question.  First
is the /dev/null copy, but second is the Agoran Ruleset, in particular
the (now-repealed) rules on contracts.  The most direct precedent to
consider here is CFJ1517.  Here, a fully functioning Nomic
(Claustronomic) also fit the Agoran definition of a Contest.  However,
during the course of play, it lost the properties that made it an Agoran
Contest.  CFJ1517 found that, even though there was clear evidence of
its continued activity as a standalone nomic, it has ceased to exist in
any defined category in Agora, and therefore it has "ceased to exist" as
far as the Agoran legal process was concerned.

At least, in that case, Claustronomic could objectively be said to have
a real world existence (there were players that were actively "abiding
by Claustronommic rules" both before and after that judgement), so
perhaps this was controversial, or even wrong.  However, for /dev/null,
in terms of any common-sense definitions, a contract with no members,
activity, or other evidence of existence, in addition to not being
currently defined in Agora, also does not pass a basic test for being a
real-world document-defined entity, therefore it can't be said to pass
any kind of reasonable test of independent existence.

Thus, this court finds that for /dev/null, the primary document in
question is clearly the Agoran ruleset.  If the Agoran rules do not
define a category that /dev/null may reasonably fit into, then /dev/null
has ceased to exist (if it ever existed).

This judgement may seem at first to conflict with a few other past
rulings that allowed independent entities to exist in an Agoran legal
sense.  For example, CFJ 1328 found that a contract not formally brought
into an Agoran category could be classed as having legal Agoran effects
as an agreement, and CFJs 1622, 1623, 1684 and 1691 affirmed that an
formally "unrecognized" entity (the Pineapple Partnership) did in fact
constitute a person.  However, the key point is that, in all these
cases, the question was whether the pre-existing entity in question fit
into a category that the Agoran rules actually recognized, such as
"agreements" and "persons".

Currently, the rules preclude /dev/null from being a person, agreements
are not defined (only roughly alluded to in R101).  /dev/null does not
fit the definition of a nomic for foreign relations (these days, that
would allow Claustronomic to be recognized).  Thus it is not an Agoran
defined entity, and has no independent existence, either.

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Judge G.'s Evidence:

Rule 1586/7 (Power=2)
Definition and Continuity of Entities

      If multiple rules (hereafter documents) attempt to define an
      entity with the same name, then they refer to the same entity.
      A document-defined entity's name CANNOT be changed to be the
      same as another document-defined entity's name.

      A document referring to an entity by name refers to the entity
      that had that name when the document first came to include that
      reference, even if the entity's name has since changed.

      If the documents defining an entity are repealed or amended such
      that they no longer define that entity, then that entity and its
      properties cease to exist.

      If the documents defining an entity are amended such that they
      still define that entity but with different properties, then
      that entity and its properties continue to exist to whatever
      extent is possible under the new definitions.

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