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January 10, 2013

What is the difference between basic and advanced eSignature?

There are broadly two categories of electronic signature, ‘basic’ and ‘advanced’. Advanced e-Signature refers to a technology-based signature, typically using encryption methods. In advanced e-Signature the technology itself holds the evidence of the signature.

The most commonly used advanced esignature is Public Key Infrastructure (PKI). While not originally designed for executing documents, the elements of PKI make it a good match for demonstrating an e-signature.

By comparison, ‘basic’ esignature is a process-based signing method, where the evidence of actions (performed and recorded on an electronic device) of an individual in association with a document that holds terms of an agreement generates the signature.

These explanations beg the question, ‘what is a signature’ or ‘what are the elements that create a signature’, in a legal context. It’s a common assumption that the only way to form a contract is to write a handwritten name. You can agree to a legal contract verbally, or even by behaving as if you have. Learn more about avoiding to use emails to get contract agreements.

A signature, both electronic and ‘real’, is more fundamentally an expression of the coming together of individuals over the terms of an agreement between them, a consensus between those parties over those terms and how those terms are agreed, with the intent to create a legally binding obligation.

This is a general guide about electronic signature law and not legal advice. eSignatures and the requirement for a type of eSignature will also vary by the nature of the contract and electronic signature jurisdiction that governs it.


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