What is an electronic signature?

A signature has always been a type of guarantee that provisions outlined in the document will be met. Ink autographs have been around for centuries but they are not 100% secure. Popular questions are — do eSignatures solve that problem? Are they accepted around the world? Does an electronic autograph impose the same legal obligations as its paper&ink equivalent? As you read this article you will find answers to those and many other questions related to eSignature.

Brief history: how did eSignature appear?

Hand-written signs to guarantee someone’s consent have existed since ancient times. The first time the eSignature question was raised, was in a U.S. court in 1867 concerning signed telegraphs. And since then, signed documents sent via telegraph have been officially accepted. It took more than a century for papers sent by fax with autographs to achieve the same status, which happened in the 1980s.

The new millennium brought a lot of changes and the digital world was no exception. In 2000 the US President signed the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act. From that moment on, e-autographs were awarded legal force.

The next big step was the creation of the first iPhone (2007) which allowed eSigning documents right from the device. Currently, there are a lot of applications and online tools doing that, but more on that later.

Are digital and electronic signatures the same or different?

People who deal with electronic documents a lot have heard these two terms, but only a few really know that they imply different concepts.
A digital signature is more like a key that secures the document. A signer must have a special certificate — it is the only way to be linked to a particular doc. A digital autograph is a unique feature (like a fingerprint), embedded into a document.
On the other hand, an electronic signature just shows a signer’s intention to sign an e-paper.

 

There are different types of eSignatures (typed, images, etc.) and all of them are legally binding. Let’s look more closely at the types of electronic autographs and what they look like:
  1. First and last name typed in a signature field.
  2. An autograph drawn with a cursor.
  3. An image or scan of your hand-written signature uploaded from the device you are using.

Does a document with an electronic signature make it legal?

It might seem that a document that you did not sign with your own hand cannot obligate you to anything. However, times change and in many countries around the world, including the USA and the European Union, eSignatures are recognized and therefore legally binding.

Despite the fact that eSignatures are pretty easy to collect, there are several points to take into consideration:

  • A legitimate intent to eSign the doc is required.
  • Parties need to agree to do business in an electronic form.
  • Records associated with the signature have to be kept.

Pay attention and realize that there are still a lot of states where eSignature laws have not been passed yet. Thus, before using this type of signature, make sure it complies with the legislation of the country and/or state you are in.

What are the key benefits of an eSignature?

Before choosing to sign a document, you need to learn about the main advantages an e-autograph has compared to its close partner, a digital signature and its paper-and-ink predecessor.
  • 1. Easy to useUnlike in the case with digital signatures, the process is much simpler. All you have to do is choose the way your e-autograph will look (typed, image or scan) and upload/enter it in the corresponding field.
  • 2. Fast and convenientYou might argue that signing a paper with a pen does not take much time either. But having signed the doc you would need to send it back with a courier or via regular mail/fax. In any case, it will take much more time than just clicking on the Share button in the app or online tool you used to eSign the document. You can do it from anywhere with an Internet connection and on any device.
  • 3. Cost-efficientNo more wasted money on printing, couriers and other additional expenses. All you will have to do is make sure you have an internet connection.
  • 4. Safe and secureAn electronic autograph is no less secure than a hand-written signature. Certainly, both of them have a risk of being forged. But in the case with eSignature, a forger will have to break into your account, steal personal data (like email address, phone number, etc.) and get past two-factor authentication. That is not an easy thing to do.

Software solutions: how to eSign a document

The first question that comes to mind before eSigning a document is What to start with? Firstly, you need to decide on the software or tool you would like to use.

There is a wide range of online solutions and applications on the market. You can make your choice based on price, interface or rankings from reputable resources, like Trustpilot. However, to keep this short, let us take a look at signNow, a mobile-first eSignature solution with hundreds of positive Trustpilot reviews

Here is a guide to eSign an electronic document with signNow:

  1. Open the file that was sent to you for eSigning.
  2. Carefully look through the doc before adding your signature.
  3. Enter your first and last name in the Text field.
  4. Find the Signature field and click on it.
  5. Upload an image of your autograph, draw one with the cursor or type it.
  6. Press the Add button.
  7. Check the executed document once again and click Done.

The bottom line

It doesn’t matter if you are an individual or represent a big company — the only difference will be in the number of papers you need to sign. By going paperless you save time, money and resources without losing on security. eSignatures have the same legal value as hand-written ones yet they are the more convenient option in practice. Choose singNow and start eSigning your documents from anywhere.
Yana Kryvosheina
Yana Kryvosheina
Digital content writer at signNow
May 13, 2020