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America Allows Digital Signatures in Commerce

By Acapnotic in News
Sat Jul 01, 2000 at 11:46:14 PM EST
Tags: Politics (all tags)
Politics

On Friday, President Clinton signed the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act in to law. The White House released a fact sheet that covers the highlights of the act.


For the full of the act, see Senate bill S. 761, which has also been referred to as the Millennium Digital Commerce Act (not to be confused with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which has most of the same syllables).

However, as this Reuters article points out, "The law itself does nothing to create federal requirements or repositories for signatures. That will be left to the marketplace, as will the issue of creating security surrounding digital transactions." An "e-commerce specialist" is quoted as saying that it will "probably take five years or so" before digital signatures become commonplace.

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Related Links
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o President Clinton signed the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act in to law
o fact sheet
o this Reuters article
o What do E-Signatures Mean for You?
o Also by Acapnotic


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America Allows Digital Signatures in Commerce | 17 comments (9 topical, 8 editorial, 0 hidden)
Five years? (2.50 / 2) (#6)
by julian on Sun Jul 02, 2000 at 12:44:35 AM EST

This guy hasn't been an "expert" long, has he?
-- Julian (x-virge)
I think he meant (none / 0) (#17)
by Neuromancer on Mon Jul 03, 2000 at 10:12:14 AM EST

I think he meant before the majority of people will be signing legal documents digitally. Most people don't. It's commonplace for us, but only because... well, I don't know why it's not for everyone else, but when I swipe a smartcard to sign for my credit transactions (something's not right there, if they can steal my credit card... oh yeah! I get it now.) Anyways, when I'm signing my grocery bill electronically, then I'll know it's commonplace.

[ Parent ]
Please don't confuse the terminology (5.00 / 4) (#7)
by Toojays on Sun Jul 02, 2000 at 01:07:36 AM EST

There is a huge difference between an "electronic" signature and a "digital" one. The digital signature is the cryptographic one which you use to prove your identity online, but an electronic signature (as defined by the act) can be much simpler, and this is why some groups are claiming that the act will hurt consumers. So the act does involve digital signatures insomuch as they are a type of electronic signature, but pressing a button on a tone phone or clicking a hyperlink can constitute an electronic signature. This report at the Cryptome outlines some of the potential harm which this law can cause.

Fear those javascript clickthroughs. (none / 0) (#8)
by Perianwyr on Sun Jul 02, 2000 at 03:18:34 AM EST

I wonder if this means those warez board disclaimers are finally legally binding? :)

[ Parent ]
Finally legal... (none / 0) (#14)
by Anonymous Hero on Sun Jul 02, 2000 at 05:20:19 PM EST

So, what type of terminology should I put on all my pages?

If you have javascript turned off, you will be presumed to have agreed with all the terms listed here.

Before viewing my site you agree to the following:
You do not have the right to sue me. You will be pay my lawyer fees, and a penalty of 1$million dollars if you do sue. You can claim $1million in insurance coverage. You assert that you are not an employee or agent of any government, or law enforcement agency, nor working on contract (Private Eye, etc) for such an agency/organization. If you are a member of a large corporation, you disclaim any offical links with said corporation, and are surfing on your own time. You agree that you are above the age of consent in your country of origin, or country of current location. You agree to abide by negotation regulations in my area, and laws in my country, as well as fulfilling your legal responsibilities in your jurisdiction. You hold me blameless, blah, blah, blah...

-- Ender, Duke_of_URL


[ Parent ]
Re: Please don't confuse the terminology (none / 0) (#12)
by Acapnotic on Sun Jul 02, 2000 at 03:06:53 PM EST

Thanks for the heads-up. I would find it extremely unfortunate, however, if this is the accepted terminology. "Digital signature" conveys "cryptographic hash with user authentication" while "electronic signature" does not? That is absurd! There is nothing in the word "digital" which hints at this, and comparing the adjectives "digital" and "electronic" doesn't lead you in this direction either.

However, it is true that the accepted meaning of "digital signature" is the one you're using, and it's also true that this is not at all the definition the "electronic signature" act uses. Oh, crap. Well, that's another nice big step backwards in terms of letting the on-line world make sense to the citizens of, well, anywhere. Julian, if it takes five years for something like this to catch on, it's because of pissing people off with games like this one...



[ Parent ]
Re: Please don't confuse the terminology (none / 0) (#15)
by julian on Sun Jul 02, 2000 at 07:30:01 PM EST

Ugh. If I realized they were doing this terminology crap (I'll admit it, I didn't read the law. So sue me. (No, please don't ;) ) maybe I would've realized that it just may take 5 years to begin to get people to see the difference. Or maybe not. Maybe this will end up being like hacker/cracker, and no one will ever get the terms straight.
-- Julian (x-virge)
[ Parent ]
Re: Please don't confuse the terminology (1.00 / 1) (#16)
by Anonymous Hero on Sun Jul 02, 2000 at 09:35:00 PM EST

blah blah blhaadfdsfadsfsd

[ Parent ]
Cryptome Report (5.00 / 1) (#13)
by Anonymous Hero on Sun Jul 02, 2000 at 04:54:17 PM EST

   The Cryptome folks seem to think that this is just UCITA sneaking in the back way. But it looks to me - though I am not a lawyer - that it merely provides another way to sign contracts.

   I have signed contracts with old-fashioned pen and ink binding me to pay a "cleaning fee" to my landlord before moving into an apartment. The actual fact - which I've discovered afterwards - is that "cleaning fees" are illegal in my area. So I signed a contract which didn't actually bind me, but I didn't know, so I complied with an illegal provision when I really didn't have to. However, the landlord is the one with the building .... so if I don't want to live on the street, I've got to do what he says!

   And this electronic stuff looks the same. Big Fat Bill's fact sheet doesn't ooze evil the way that some of the stuff does. His new law ALLOWS you to sign evil contracts - which may not be legally enforceable. The "Consumer Protections" stuff is just fancy legal talk for "if a contract is illegal in meatspace, it's illegal online too." See, he's trying to help!

   So it seems that the defense has to be the same as with pen and paper contracts. In theory, we all know our legal rights, and can defend them in a court of law if necessary.

   In practice, we'll never know our rights because they're buried in piles and piles of legalese in some government lawbooks, and we can't defend ourselves because we don't have enough money to keep a lawyer on staff. Furthermore, like my landlord example, we might not have enough market power to reject a bad contract, especially if all major companies in the area use similar language.

   So nothing really changes I guess...


America Allows Digital Signatures in Commerce | 17 comments (9 topical, 8 editorial, 0 hidden)
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