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definition - Digital_signatures_and_law

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Digital signatures and law

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Worldwide, legislation concerning the effect and validity of digital signatures includes:





  • Medida provisória 2.200-2 (Portuguese) - Brazilian law states that any digital document is valid for the law if it is certified by ICP-Brasil (the official Brazilian PKI) or if it is certified by other PKI and the concerned parties agree as to the validity of the document.


  • PIPEDA - Canadian law distinguishes between the generic "electronic signature" and the "secure electronic signature". Federal secure electronic signature regulations make it clear that a secure electronic signature is a digital signature created and verified in a specific manner. Canada's Evidence Act contains evidentiary presumptions about both the integrity and validity of electronic documents with attached secure electronic signatures, and of the authenticity of the secure electronic signatures themselves.


European Union and the European Economic Area




New Zealand

For an overview of the New Zealand law refer:- The Laws of New Zealand, Electronic Transactions, paras 16-18; or- Commercial Law, paras 8A.7.1-8A.7.4. (these sources are available on the LexisNexis subscription-only website)


Russian Federation

Federal Law of Russian Federation about Electronic Digital Signature (10.01.2002)

South Africa


United Nations Commission on International Trade Law

United States


Uruguay laws include both, electronic and digital signatures:


Turkey has an Electronic Signature Law [1] since 2004. This law is stated in European Union Directive 1999/93/EC. Turkey has a Government Certificate Authority - Kamu SM for all government agents for their internal use and three independent certificate authorities all of which are issuing qualified digital signatures.

Turkey had a recent triumph in digital signatures and become the forerunner of mobile signature, that is, qualified signatures that are created using mobile phones. The leading GSM operator of Turkey, Turkcell, had developed the business model of this service for consumers first in the world.

Legal cases

Court decisions discussing the effect and validity of digital signatures or digital signature-related legislation:

  • In re Piranha, Inc., 2003 WL 21468504 (N.D. Tex) (UETA does not preclude a person from contesting that he executed, adopted, or authorized an electronic signature that is purportedly his).
  • Cloud Corp. v. Hasbro, 314 F.3d 289 (7th Cir., 2002)[2] (E-SIGN does not apply retroactively to contracts formed before it took effect in 2000. Nevertheless, the statute of frauds was satisfied by the text of E-mail plus an (apparently) written notation.)
  • Sea-Land Service, Inc. v. Lozen International, 285 F.3d 808 (9th Cir., 2002) [3] (Internal corporate E-mail with signature block, forwarded to a third party by another employee, was admissible over hearsay objection as a party-admission, where the statement was apparently within the scope of the author's and forwarder's employment.)

Further reading

For books in English on electronic signatures, see:

  • Stephen Mason, Electronic Signatures in Law (Tottel, second edition, 2007);
  • Dennis Campbell, editor, E-Commerce and the Law of Digital Signatures (Oceana Publications, 2005);
  • Lorna Brazell, Electronic Signatures Law and Regulation, (Sweet & Maxwell, 2004);
  • M. H. M Schellenkens, Electronic Signatures Authentication Technology from a Legal Perspective, (TMC Asser Press, 2004).

For translations of electronic signature cases from Europe, Brazil, China and Colombia into English, see the Digital Evidence and Electronic Signature Law Review



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