Digital Signature And Electronic Signature - Legal Framework | 943

The Legalities of The Digital Signature

Most often, people confuse electronic signatures and digital signatures; however, knowing the differences is essential. Failure to acknowledge the difference can negatively impact the legality and security of digital documents.

The dynamism and advance of the digital signature have led to the revolution of the financial, commercial, and real estate sectors. The law sector, although adamant about being dependent on paper documents. It has gradually started to embrace paperless technology by adopting electronic signature solutions for legal services which help in improving efficiency in their daily operations.

Both e-signature and digital signature are legally admissible and allow you to identify yourself as the signer. It is essential to look at the differences, as explained below:

  1. Electronic Signatures

The ESIGN Act defines electronic signatures as "an electronic sound, symbol, or process attached to or logically associated with an agreement and executed by a person with the intent to sign." For an E-signature to be legally bidding, the signer must indicate the intent to sign the agreement electronically. Must have consented to conduct business electronically. There must be an opt-out of the e-signature clause and an option to shift to a manual signature.

The signing parties must each receive a complete copy of the contract which is automatically provided by E-signature solutions. Finally, under the ESIGN Act, the legitimization of the agreement is validated and can be produced as per the requirements. The signer is also permitted to download a copy of the contract.

Electronically signed documents can be presented in court proceedings as evidence. Electronically signed documents are legal and valid. An example of an E-signature is the PINs used to access ATMs. It can also be a scanned image of your handwritten signature.

  1. Digital Signatures

It is the use of encrypted technology where the electronic signature solution takes the e-signature process further by adding a "certificate of authority" in its encryption. When an individual uses a digital signature, the certificate of authority indicates the name and surname. It also includes the date and time of signing and any other unique features of the signing party. Software programs such as DocuSign, Adobe Acrobat are used by individuals and organizations to create a certificate of authority that is unique to you.

Advantages of digital signatures
 

  1. Offer High Levels of Security and Privacy

An electronic signature is prone to hacking and fraud as it is in the form of a PIN or a picture. It is a difficult and challenging process proving that they signed the document intentionally. A digital signature does not face such challenges as it is easy to carry identity verification encrypted into the signature through a "certificate of authority." To solve the issue of Identify verification with E-signature, "South Africa's Electronic Communications and Transactions Act (ECTA) designed an Advanced electronic signature which is almost similar to a digital signature, the only difference is it requires face-face verification.

  1. Easy to Collect Evidence

It makes it easy to verify the identity of the signers. Evidence is easily collected by auditing the digital signature trail.

  1. Saves Costs

Digital signatures help in saving cost through reduction of the amount of paper printed, copied and filed, and in some cases, shredded.

  1. Time Management

Digital signatures help in time management because less time is needed to manage the document since there is no printing, copying, or manually signing the document. The time is used to perform priority tasks and attend to clients.

  1. Easily Accessible

It can be accessed from anywhere and at any time, whether away from the office or home. Agile workflow as signatures can be acquired in less time.

In the corporate sector, the use of electronic signatures by the legal department is gradually being adopted. The law firms are referring to digital signatures as "legaltech." By using digital signatures, law firms can save on time that would have been spent on printing, signing, and scanning documents.

Without the use of e-signatures, Legal departments had to follow the tedious procedures of printing documents, manually signing them, scanning them, and then sending them to the client through mail or fax for signature and then filing them after having made several copies. This led to high paper costs, time wasted waiting for documents to be signed, and wastage of storage space. In recent times, law professionals such as lawyers, judges, and magistrates have adopted the use of digital signatures. The digital signature guarantees them the flexibility and confidentiality of their documents.

Companies such as DocuSign and AdobeSign offer electronic signatures for legal services to their clients. Most law firms use the Docusign system to provide service to their clients. The system ensures that they meet and exceed their client's expectations by drafting contracts and signing in the shortest time possible. Through DocuSign, The law firms can produce legal and court-admissible documents by ensuring that once the agreements are signed, they are secured with a tamper-evident seal. The DocuSign system saves time and accelerates productivity. It also reduces risks due to its commitment to security procedures, such as physical and platform security.

E-signature for a legal agreement is recognized under the E-SIGN Act 2000 and the Uniform Electronic Transaction Act (UETA). Documents signed electronically have the same legal force as those signed manually and are admissible in court. However, for the e-signature legal agreement to be legally binding and enforceable, the following must be proved

The parties should show intent to sign,

Give consent to sign,

Have an opt-out option and shift to the manual mode of signature.

Receive copies of the signed agreement.

Record of the signed agreement.

A real estate operator in Washington, Cheronn Collins, has closed 30+ plus rentals through e-signature legal agreements. However, some document representing divorce or adoption requires the use of a notary.

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E-signature has been in use for the last 20 years. However, most organizations, especially law firms, started embracing technology in 2018. DocuSign system helps law firms to offer electronic signatures legal services such as notices, settlements, medical releases, pleadings, and depositions. Judges and magistrates.

Conclusion

The law has also enacted several Acts such as E-SIGN, and UETA, which support the use of digital signatures. According to these Acts, digital signatures are also admissible in court. Governments, law firms, and non-governmental organizations should make use of digital signatures as opposed to e-signatures as they have eliminated the use of tedious procedures required to sign the document manually. They assure the signing parties of the privacy and security of the legal documents. A digital signature is easy to track since the signatures are encrypted with the "certificate of authority."