Electronic Signatures in LegalAtoms
Electronic signatures on LegalAtoms are legally equivalent to traditional signatures done using ink and paper as LegalAtoms web software complies with the Washington State and US Federal laws that govern electronic signatures.
LegalAtoms e-Signature complies with the two laws which make the electronically signed documents on LegalAtoms equal to a traditionally signed document using pen and paper. The two law are the United States Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce (ESIGN) Act, and the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA).
In Washington State the electronic signatures hold the same status as traditional pen and paper signatures as long as they comply with Revised Code of Washington (RCW) 1.80 called the Uniform Electronic Transaction Act (UETA).
The Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA) was originally proposed by Uniform Law Commission (ULC) and passed in 1999 proposed and is aimed at having some basic standards across the different states for electronic signatures. Forty-nine states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands have adopted the UETA while New York have opted for their own variants of the laws.
UETA established that electronic signatures would legally be identical to handwritten signatures as long as certain conditions were met.
The Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN, Pub. L. 106–229 (text) (PDF), 114 Stat. 464, enacted June 30, 2000, 15 U.S.C. ch. 96) is a federal law which is concerned with the use of electronic signatures in commerce involving interstate and international situations.
President Bill Clinton signing ESIGN bill into law, June 2000.
Image Source: William J. Clinton Presidential Library
Both ESIGN and UETA have near identical requirements on when an electronic signature can be enforced the same way as a traditional signature.
Electronic Signature: Both ESIGN and UETA define an electronic signature to be “an electronic sound, symbol, or process, attached to or logically associated with a contract or other record and executed or adopted by a person with the intent to sign the record.” The signature drawn on the LegalAtoms screen is thus an electronic symbol adopted for familiarity and often applied with a confirmation click. Courts across US have interpreted the UETA and E-SIGN to mean that the click of a button online can replace an actual signature.
Electronic– means relating to technology having electrical, digital, magnetic, wireless, optical, electromagnetic, or similar capabilities.
Electronic Record: As per E-Sign, the term ‘electronic record’ means a contract or other record created, generated, sent, communicated, received, or stored by electronic means.
Both ESIGN and UETA list the following to be true for an electronic signature to be considered to be equivalent to a handwritten signature:
Intent to sign
The party whose signature is applied actually intended that signature. In other words, an e-signature should be applied with explicit permission of the user.
Consent to sign electronically
The parties must consent to participating electronically. Typically the consent is acquired as an earlier step prior to actual e-signature. The Catch-22 nature of this rule is obvious i.e. a party is consenting to sign electronically by signing electronically! However, in practice getting the consent electronically itself proves access i.e. the user can actually read the electronic documents.
As per ESIGN Section 101(c)(1)(C): “consent electronically, in a manner that reasonably demonstrates that the consumer can access information in the electronic form that will be used to provide the information that is the subject of the consent
UETA elaborates on the steps required which are:
- The user has received UETA disclosures, which informing them about the e-signature’s use, and
- The user has consented to the use of e-signatures.
- Furthermore a user is able to withdraw consent to the use of electronic records.
Association of signature with the record
ESIGN Act and UETA require the software system to link the e-signature to the underlying matter to which it was applied to.
It further requires the system to record the process by which the signature was created, or generate a textual or graphic statement.
ESIGN Act and UETA on eSignatures and electronic transactions require that electronic signature records be capable of retention and accurate reproduction for reference by all parties or persons entitled to retain the contract or record.
LegalAtoms compliance with UETA and ESIGN
LegalAtoms complies with the requirements of UETA and ESIGN. Here’s the score card:
Intent to sign:
- Consent: LegalAtoms seeks the consent at the time of registration. As users must register before they can do any kind of interaction electronically, the requirement of consent is fulfilled prior to any exchange.
- Intent: LegalAtoms makes it explicit that a user’s signature will be applied for a given case. For professionals such as judges, lawyers and clerks, the signature’s intent is confirmed.
- Association of signature with the record: LegalAtoms physically applies the signature at the time an individual e-signs a document. There is also a separate register kept of every electronic signature done by a given individual which track
Electronic signatures done via LegalAtoms comply with the two key US Laws, ESIGN and UETA, which specify when e-signatures equal traditional signatures. The key requirements for software systems like LegalAtoms are to 1) seek the user’s consent to participate in an electronic based exchange and 2) apply the signature only when the user intends to 3) link the signature to the document to which it is applied to, and finally 4) keep records.