Guess What, John Hancock?

State Legislatures, April 1997 | Go to article overview

Guess What, John Hancock?


The world of electronic commerce has arrived. It's a world where goods are ordered and shipped without any human picking up a phone or filling out a purchase order. It's a world where tax returns and driver's license applications are never reduced to paper, where lawyers and judges agree on settlements without ever being in the same state. And as electronic commerce grows, businesses and governments are learning that the law governing it also must grow.

Digital signatures, which allow electronic documents to be signed and verified, are bringing contract law into the information age. Contracts, purchase orders, credit receipts, tax returns and almost every other transaction that normally requires a handwritten signature may now be conducted via computer. Several states, realizing the importance of digital signatures, have introduced relevant legislation.

Utah was the first state to pass comprehensive digital signature regulations in 1995. Last session, the Legislature amended the law - the Digital Signature Act - to fit with international provisions. It now provides guidelines for the use of digital signatures in private communications. It allows for the establishment and licensing of certification authorities and repositories, that will ensure the reliability of digital signatures. The act also sets out parameters for resolving legal disputes over digitally signed transactions. …

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