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Electronic Signatures in International Contracts


Carolina Monica Laborde

Electronic signature legislation seeks to facilitate e-commerce by providing an electronic equivalent to handwritten signatures in paper-based contracts. However, electronic signature legislation enacted in the past years in different jurisdictions has followed a dissimilar approach. In light thereof, this book analyzes the legal validity of electronic signatures in international contracts potentially subject to divergent electronic signature regulation. To this end, four major issues are addressed: the technological and legal concept of electronic signatures; the legal regulation of electronic signatures; the determination of the electronic signature legislation that will be applicable to an international contract; and, finally, the implications of applying one electronic signature law or another. The research covers the laws of Argentina, Germany and the United States of America as well as international conventions.


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Final Conclusions


The Internet, EDI, and e-mail are new channels to enter into commercial agreements. The formal validity of these contracts is subject to the same rules applied to paper contracts; therefore, electronic contracts may need to be in writing and signed. For this reason it has been necessary to develop a functional equivalent to handwritten signatures to be used in electronic transactions. The handwritten signature is a means of establishing the identity of a person and also the traditional means by which a person expresses his or her intention in written documents. The electronic world uses different methods (based on different technologies) to establish the identity of a person. When these methods are combined with the intention to sign the law recognizes the existence of a valid signature. The different methods to sign electronically offer dissimilar levels of reliability as well as of complexity. Some laws recognize only methods ensuring the highest authenticity security, which currently are those based on public key cryptography. Other laws do not address the technological issue recognizing all types of electronic signatures. Due to the nature of electronic commerce it has been perceived that uniform standards for the recognition of electronic signatures would pave the way for the execution of online contracts. Nevertheless, right from the beginning the legal approach to the regulation of electronic signatures in different jurisdictions has been divergent. The first disagreement concerns what is understood under the term electronic signature. UETA and E-Sign present a single concept of electronic signature; the Electronic...

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