[LEAPSECS] Do lawyers care (know) about leap seconds?

Warner Losh imp at bsdimp.com
Tue Sep 30 18:46:13 EDT 2014

The problem is that many contracts don’t directly specify UTC, so it
defaults to whatever the legal time is for that jurisdiction happens to be,
or is believed to be by the courts (UTC traceable to NIST was the only
accepted mean solar time for years not due to law, but due to regulations
and the interpretation of NIST before UTC became law).

So maybe it would matter, maybe it wouldn’t for a particular contract.

As for 23:59:60 mattering, things in law are specified in an unambiguous
manner (eg, contract is in force from 12:01am rather than midnight), so
it might not matter for that particular aspect. Other matters, like when
regulations require timestamps to the nearest millisecond for a proper
audit trail (required for drugs and vaccines, for example) would be thrown
off a bit by UTC time smearing. That bit may be enough to matter, it
may not, and often manufacturing plants shut down around leap seconds
to avoid the ambiguities and the issues that embedded gear has in coping
with leap seconds.

But the basic point still remains: If you have to sugar coat the actual standard
with a fake standard to paper-over people’s inability to deal with the actual
standard, this suggests that you have the wrong actual standard.


On Sep 30, 2014, at 3:33 PM, Brooks Harris <brooks at edlmax.com> wrote:

> Television, cable, and internet advertising. In broadcast (including cable) the contracts are in video frames, in the North America and other NTSC standards countries this is on the order of +- 1/30th second (with some small variance for technical error). Lots and lots of commercials, lots and lots of money, with lots and lots of liablity for not broadcasting exactly what you promised. And its monitored by lots and lots of lawyers.
> On 2014-09-30 03:55 PM, Clive D.W. Feather wrote:
>> Hal Murray said:
>>> How many contracts worry about seconds?
>> Ones to deal with electronic trading, domain name registration, and such
>> topics.
>>> I think it's common for contracts to start one minute before or after
>>> midnight to avoid an English language ambiguity.  Things like "midnight
>>> Monday" might be the midnight at the start of Monday or the midnight at the
>>> end of Monday so contracts usually use 00:01 or 23:59.  A bit of googling
>>> found a web page describing that, but I don't know what they teach in law
>>> schools.
>> They didn't suggest it on my law course.
>> I found a law case (sorry, no cite) that was decided on a matter of 8
>> seconds - from memory, an email sent 8 seconds after a midnight deadline.
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