Wired, Tired and Expired methods of signing in the digital world
In many countries, electronic signatures have the same legal significance as the traditional way of signing documents by hand. This has been the case for more than a decade although the practice of using e-Signatures has not yet become mainstream.
Andrew Legrand, an Attorney from Louisiana explains "in order to constitute an electronic signature, the electronic mark must be 1) made by the person with 2) the intent to sign the record. It's not much different from a handwritten signature. Essentially, it's not the actual mark but the meaning behind the mark that's important."
There are several tools available for electronic signing such as digital signature capturing devices such as a tablet or smart-phone used and bank cards that allow you to use personal identification numbers or pins. A valid electronic signature could also be a typed name at the end of an electronic document, form or email or a click of an “agree” or “disagree” button on a terms and conditions document on any website.
Here are some of the wired, tired and expired methods of signing electronically in relation to written agreements and details of the legality of this method of signing around the world.
A digital signature is considered the most secure type of e-signature. The terms digital signature and e-signature are often used interchangeably. However, most e-signatures do not have the same level of security as a digital signature.
A digital signature validates the identity of the author and owner of the signature with a certificate of authority and the assistance of encryption and decryption keys. Digital Signatures that are built into a system with complete functionality for document lifecycle management including document collaboration are Wired!
A digital signature system with full verification capability but only functionality for signing is a Tired method for signing. There are many applications that currently provide this capacity such as DocuSign, HelloSign and Adobe eSign (formerly EchoSign). However, these products are not seamlessly embedded into a contracting lifecycle management program.
Older forms of e-Signature that don’t provide any system-generated verification are expired. Such methods include copying and pasting a signature you have drawn by hand and then digitized onto a document or annotating a document with a mouse-drawn signature.
This method of signing does not have the same security assurance as more modern e-Signature systems and for this reason is Expired. However, it still does provide the benefit of convenience; allowing for signing from any location around the world.
Of course, paper (“wet”) signature may still be necessary (or even required where e-Signature is not allowed or accessible). The very best software solution solution would provide a “wired” approach to e-Signature coupled with the flexibility to incorporate paper signature, if necessary or possibly preferred.
It will be interesting to see how electronic signature evolves next!
Legality of Electronic Signatures around the world
- USA - Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN, 2000) and the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA, 1999)
- UK - e Electronic Communications Act 2000, and the Electronic Signatures Regulations 2002 (SI 2002 No. 318)
- Australia - section 10 of the Electronic Transactions Act 1999
- Canada - Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act
- EU - European Directive 199/93/EC (European Union)
For more information on eSignature legality around the world refer to:
Do you use Digital Signtures or eSignatures? Why/ Why not?
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