Electronic signatures and electronic signature software
This document is designed to help you understand what electronic signatures (e-signatures) are, and how electronic signature software can bring this useful technology to your business.
All about Electronic Signatures
- First, what is a signature?
A signature is any symbol executed or adopted by a party with the intention to authenticate a document. The key point is that there is no requirement for this to be ink on paper. Instead, it can be any symbol, provided the symbol is used with the intent of signing. This is why copies of signatures (such as on a fax), stamps and seals, and fingerprints can be used for signing on paper.
- What is an electronic signature?
Like the signature above, an electronic signature is an electronic mark that's related to the electronic record or data that is being signed, such that the user has applied that symbol to indicate his/her intent to sign. It is important that the electronic symbol be related specifically to the party who is signing, that there is proof that the symbol was applied with intent to sign, that the data being signed can be proven to be the original data (i.e. hasn't been tampered with), and be such that all parties to a signature are allowed to have independent copies.
Concerns when using Electronic Signatures
- Is it legal?
Yes, electronic signatures are legally recognised, even when a statute uses terms like "in writing" or "signed".
- Who can use them?
While anybody can operate electronic signature software legally, there are times when it makes sense to rely on a trusted third party. The advantage of using a third party to handle your electronic signatures is that they have no vested interest in any given transaction. A third party doesn't look into your transaction or concern itself with the parties involved. They simply ensure timestamps are accurate, that all parties have equal and fair access to the documents, ensure the security of the technology and provide an unbiased witness to the fact that a given transaction took place in a legal manner. If you operate your own technology, using a third party's system can help you prove that you were being fair and unbiased in handling your own transactions. Homegrown software may suffer security issues that others would point to in court to imply that the transaction was not fairly executed.
- Can anything be signed electronically?
Not everything, but most common documents can be.
Reprinted with permission from Yozons Technology.
If you have more questions, please visit the Yozons electronic signatures frequently asked questions (electronic signature FAQ). Electronic signatures are simply superior and more reliable than handwritten signatures. Electronic delivery is more secure, direct, faster and cheaper than faxing, mailing or courier services. Record retention, auditing, tracking and finding electronic documents is much cheaper, easier and can be automated.