US bill would validate digital signatures

The US House Judiciary Committee has approved a bill designed to encourage electronic commerce by recognising digital signatures as having the same legally binding status as a handwritten signature.

The US House Judiciary Committee has approved a bill designed to encourage electronic commerce by recognising digital signatures as having the same legally binding status as a handwritten signature.

The bill, approved by the committee yesterday, is an effort to take the least intrusive course in trying to get states to establish the same standard for the use of digital signatures, said a spokesman for US Representative Zoe Lofgren, a Democrat from California. It borrows some provisions from a similar bill passed by the Senate, the spokesman said.

Under the bill, if two parties agree to use digital signatures to seal their transaction, the signature cannot be ruled invalid by a state legislature or other lawmaking body. The spokesman said the bill does not affect states that have passed laws based on the standards of the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act and would be an interim measure for states that have not passed UETA.

The bill does not go as far as another digital signature bill in the House passed by the Commerce Committee, which would preempt state laws that do not allow a contract to be made with a digital signature.

The two bills will be taken up by the Rules Committee, which sends legislation to the House floor.

The House Judiciary Committee can be found on the World Wide Web at http://www.house.gov/judiciary.

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