Digital signing became a major concern in the late 90’s. With the rapid advancement of technology, businesses often found it easier to sign documents using digital means rather than utilizing traditional faxes or mailed documents. The issue was that technology was so new that there were no legal safeguards when an eSignature was made.

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Now, people eSign documents all the time and it has become a standard in many businesses. The speed in which contracts can be made is extremely beneficial and there is little overhead seen in comparison to fax machines or older technology.

The Adoption of Digital Signing

Laws pertaining to when you could use an eSignature were first introduced in 1999 under the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act. Following this act, the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act, also known as ESIGN, was put into law. These acts spurred numerous laws across the world that legalized eSignatures.

These two acts establish that an electronic signature can’t be deemed invalid because it’s in electronic form. Instead, electronic signatures are given the same effect as handwritten signatures within the United States.

Countries That Accept Digital Signing

There are many countries that have adopted their own laws in regards to electronic signing of documents. This allows documents signed electronically within their respective countries to be enforceable by law.

When you eSign a document, you must ensure that the other party is within a country that has laws in place that allow digital signing.

The following countries have introduced their own respective laws regarding electronic signatures:

  • United Kingdom: The UK Electronic Communication Act was introduced within the UK in 2000 and allows for the same protection as the two acts enacted by the United States.
  • European Union: Thirty of the countries that make up the European Union have adopted what is called European Directive 1999/93/EC.
  • Canada: Using a “secure electronic signature” within Canada allows for a safe means of signing a document, but the signature must be secure as stated within PIPEDA.
  • China: The Electronic Signature Law of the People’s Republic of China standardizes the use of electronic signatures in the country.
  • Russia: Introduced in 2002, Russia allows digital signatures and recognizes them by law.

Most countries have enacted legislation that allows digital signing within their country. There are some countries that do not allow for documents to be signed digitally. It is in your best interest to ensure that before signing a document electronically outside of the countries mentioned previously, you ensure that digital signing is recognized by the country you reside and the country the other party resides in.

Keeping Records of the Digital Signing

Businesses will have their own legal responsibility when signing documents electronically. In the United States, you will be required to keep a physical and electronic record of the transaction. Furthermore, all parties that have signed the document must have access to the file.

Services, such as EchoSign or DocuSign, exist that will allow for files signed electronically to be stored in accordance with the signees respective country.

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