Electronic signatures play an important role in international business and commerce. Worldwide, companies of all sizes rely on e-signature technology to get major deals done on a daily basis. If national governing bodies could not guarantee the legality and validity of electronic contracts and online transactions, then e-commerce would most likely come to a grinding halt. This is a major reason why lawmakers in so many countries have made it a priority to enact national e-signature legislation.
Across the globe, more than 60 countries have established their own laws and standards regarding electronic signatures and digital transactions. However, this growth is only beginning. The number of countries that have some form of legislation regarding e-signatures is continuing to grow every year.
The following countries have adopted some form of e-signature legislation:
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While click-to-agree electronic signatures have become commonplace in today’s world of internet shopping and iTunes agreements, the popularity of electronic signature software shows the value of signing documents and contracts with a hand-drawn, personal electronic signature. A unique handwritten signature has long been a symbol for verifying one’s identity: assuming only the identified party would write their name in exactly the same fashion for each signature, the validity of a signature could be proven in a court of law. This is reinforced by the popular hobby of collecting autographs from athletes and celebrities. This focus on the aesthetic properties of a signature has led many people, non-celebrities included, to cultivate a stylized personal signature as a marker of individuality.
With the advent of electronic signatures, however, many of our traditional ideas about what constitutes a signature have shifted: without the necessities of pen and paper, there is no reason to require a signature to take the form of a handwritten name. US State and Federal legislation regarding electronic signatures, UETA and the E-SIGN Act, define an electronic signature broadly, as “an electronic sound, symbol, or process … executed or adopted by a person with the intent to sign the record”. Despite this language, the desire for and utility of a “handwritten”, unique electronic signature is still apparent. Such a tool acts to enhance legal verification and adds a human touch to otherwise impersonal electronic documents and business deals. To fill this gap, most electronic signature software includes options for the signer to provide a hand-drawn, personal electronic signature.
Microsoft Word is the world’s most used word processing program. Every day, millions of users use MS Word to draft important documents. The growth of online business has made it increasingly acceptable to send word documents by email, and an overview of electronic signatures shows that professionals are taking advantage of electronic transactions to increase efficiency and reduce the use of physical resources. Word documents are perfect for this type of distribution, as they are generally small enough to include as an attachment in an email. In addition, Word .DOC files can be opened, and edited, on nearly any computer, making them ideal for collaborative projects.
This ease of editing, however, is a double-edged sword when it comes to finalizing or “locking” a document with legal implications. Adding a legally recognized electronic signature to a Word document, for example, presents an inherent issue. How can one be assured that a document is not edited after a signature has been applied? Word does not contain security measures to ensure the identity of each user. Instead, users looking to sign word documents must use specialized electronic signature software to ensure the integrity of their files.
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How can you apply an electronic signature to a PDF document? First, it’s helpful to understand the strengths and vulnerabilities of this well-known file format. Then, you can try new online software that enables you to place legally-binding e-signatures on PDF documents.
The PDF Format
Necessity is the mother of invention. This is true of many technological innovations, including the Portable Document Format.
The Portable Document Format – better known as PDF – is an invention that was created out of a common need. Businesses in the early 1990s craved a way to share electronic documents that was independent of the hardware, software, and operating systems that their clients were using at the time, and a software company called Adobe Systems stepped in with a solution.
The solution was the PDF, a first-of-its-kind file format that allowed people to retain formatting on the files they were sending regardless of the computer or operating system their intended recipient was using. PDFs were heralded as a breakthrough when they were released to the public in 1993, and they slowly began to change the way companies communicated internally and externally.
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Electronic signature software promises a host of benefits for your business: contracts signed faster, reduced paper and postage costs, stronger legal defensibility, and satisfied customers. Whether you represent a small proprietorship or a large enterprise, it is important to select the e-signature solution with tools and features that fit the way you do business.
Unlike other business software that your customers may never see, electronic signature software is customer-facing. That is, your customers will interact with the software to fill out and sign documents online. A less-than-stellar platform that is difficult to use will turn off clients and reflect poorly on your company. This is why companies consider usability and design critical criteria in choosing an e-signature provider.
RightSignature offers the leading e-signature solution with an easy-to-use interface and a comprehensive feature set. As you think about how your company will implement online document signing, be sure to select a proven, high-quality e-signature system that offers these must-have features:
For most people who enter into contracts on a daily basis, the terms “electronic signature” and “digital signature” mean roughly the same thing. From a legal perspective, however, an electronic signature and a digital signature are two very different forms of consent.
Whether a signature is electronic, digital, or handwritten on paper, the underlying concept remains the same. All three types of signatures represent the intent of the person signing a document. Although the terms “electronic signature” and “digital signature” are often used interchangeably in conversation, they do in fact have distinct meanings from both a technical and a legal perspective.
At its core, an electronic signature can be any type of electronic consent or approval. More specifically, the E-Sign Act defines an electronic signature as an “electronic sound, symbol, or process attached to or logically associated with a record and executed or adopted by a person with the intent to sign the record.”
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