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A Closer Look at Electronic Signatures: Definition, Types, and Legal Implications

Signatures are personal patterns or representations individuals make to authenticate a document or an agreement. There exist physical signatures that are handwritten on paper documents. In contrast, it’s possible to apply signatures even on electronic documents with the help of available technology. To know more about what is an electronic signature, this article will provide helpful information.

Part 1: What is an Electronic Signature?

An electronic signature is a digital representation of unique patterns to sign a document or record electronically. It serves as a legally recognized equivalent to a handwritten signature in electronic or digital form. Electronic signatures eliminate the need for physical paperwork, printing, and manual handling of documents.

It is significantly different from a wet signature, where users are bound to physically make a mark on the document that is being signed to prove their presence. Electronic signatures can be typed signatures, click-to-sign, or even biometric signatures. Generally, all these signatures are unique with different use cases.

Part 2: Types of E-Signatures?

When it comes to an e-signature, you'll find different types of electronic signatures on the internet. But what do these e-signature types include? Following are the three types of electronic signatures:

1. Simple Electronic Signature (SES)

Simple Electronic Signature (SES) is an electronic signature that is easy to create since it doesn't require advanced cryptographic technologies or complex security measures. Typically, it's used for less sensitive or low-profile matters where the level of trust and legalities may not be critical. Meanwhile, SES involves signatures within scanned images, typed names, or symbols.

2. Advanced Electronic Signature (AES)

Advanced Electronic Signature (AES) is a secure and legally recognized form of electronic signature. After all, it ensures the identity of both the signed document and the one who signed it. In general, there exist cryptographic techniques like digital certificates and encryption. Thus, strong authentication is provided, which also protects against tampering. For legally binding transactions, AES is a preferred electronic signature.

3. Qualified Electronic Signature (QES)

Qualified Electronic Signature (QES) is the highest electronic signature level recognized under certain jurisdictions, including European Union's eIDAS Regulation. Ideally, QES requires a qualified certificate, and it's based on a secure signature creation device. Meanwhile, QES provides the strongest authenticity and legal validity for highly sensitive and legally binding transactions, just like handwritten signatures.

Part 3: Is Electronic Signature Legal?

An electronic signature is considered legal in many countries. However, the legality in each country comes with different laws and regulations that must be strictly followed. This way, the electronic document will become legally binding and more authentic. Surely, you must be thinking about which countries electronic signatures are legal and with what respective laws. Here is what it looks like:

In the United States, there exist Electronic Signatures in the Global and National Commerce Act, as well as Uniform Electronic Transactions Act. Canada has Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act. Australia possesses Electronic Transactions Act 1999. European Union follows European Directive 199/93/EC.

United Kingdom leverages Electronic Signatures Regulation 2002. Meanwhile, China has the Electronic Signature Law of the People's Republic of China. You will also find many similar laws in other countries where an electronic signature is considered legal.

Other Countries Where Electronic Signature is Somehow Legal

ArgentinaCosta RicaEstoniaItalyLiechtensteinNorwayRussiaSwedenVenezuela
AustriaCroatiaFinlandIndiaLithuaniaNetherlandsRepublika SrpskaSwitzerlandWales
BelgiumCyprusFranceIrelandMontenegroPortugalRomaniaSlovakia
BrazilCzech RepublicGermanyJapanMalaysiaPakistanSouth KoreaSouth Africa 
BulgariaDenmarkGreeceJamaicaMaltaPanamaScotlandTurkey 
ChileDominican RepublicGuatemalaLuxembourgMauritiusPeruSingaporeUruguay 
ColombiaEcuadorHungaryLatviaMexicoPhilippinesSpainUkraine

Part 4: Where is Electronic Signature Widely Used?

To begin with, electronic signatures are widely used across various industries and sectors for their convenience, efficiency, and legality. Find here some of the common areas where you can find electronic signatures with essential roles:

  • Banking and Financial: The role of electronic signatures in the banking and financial sector is immense. After all, it helps open a bank account, authorize transactions, or apply for a loan.
  • Real Estate: Within the real estate industry, electronic signatures are used for validating and signing purchase agreements, lease agreements, rental contracts, and other property-related documents. 
  • Healthcare: In the healthcare sector, e-signatures are utilized within patient consent forms, medical records, prescriptions, and other healthcare-related documents. This also enhances the validity and security of the documents.
  • Business Contracts: Electronic signatures are frequently used for signing business contracts. This includes agreements, sales contracts, partnership agreements, and employment contracts in a legally binding way.

Part 5: How to Create a Signature

By using the UPDF PDF management tool, it's possible to create an e-signature and even apply it to your legal document. So, you can draw a handwritten signature or type in an electronic signature. There's an option to change color or adjust pen thickness while creating a signature. You can also choose between keyboard, mouse, and trackpad options. Moreover, UPDF allows you to save 4 created signatures that you can use anytime.

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To create your e-signature, open UPDF on your computer and press the "Open File" button. From the toolbar on the left side, click the "Comment" icon and tap on the "Signature" icon from the screen's top. A signature panel will open where you have to click "Create Signature" to begin creating your content.

what is an electronic signature

From the mouse drop-down, you can select between "Keyboard" and "Mouse"options to create a signature.

create signature

You can also select the thickness and colors of the sign. Finally, click "Create" and apply the signature to a desired part of your document. Save the file on your device by navigating into the "Save as Other" icon from the right-side toolbar.

Part 6: FAQs on Electronic Signature

1. Can I write my name as a signature?

Writing your name as a signature in informal or personal contexts may be acceptable. However, checking the specific requirements and legal implications of the document or transaction you are signing is always advisable.

2. Does your signature have to be your full name?

Generally, your signature doesn't have to be your full name, as it can be your first or late name, initials, or any combination. This is like, if your name is James Hick, your signature can be James Hick, James, or even James H.

3. What is accepted as an electronic signature?

An electronic signature is a legally binding obligation, and it accepts specific requirements, including intent to sign, document association, authentication, integrity, non-repudiation, legal compliance, and record keeping.

4. What is an example of an electronic signature?

If you're thinking about what is an electronic signature example, As a whole, an electronic signature is distinctly used. Some of its examples include digital signatures, typed or click-to-sign signatures, biometric signatures, email signatures, voice signatures, QR code signatures, and electronically handwritten signatures.

Conclusion 

The fact is electronic signatures have ideally revolutionized the way we sign our important legal documents like agreements and contracts. A question arises, is electronic signature legal, and what makes an electronic signature legal? This article provided helpful instructions with brief details. You also learned how to apply an e-signature to a PDF document using the UPDF PDF editor.

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