We keep hearing eSignatures are the future of document management, but aside from downloading specialized apps or paying for expensive software, many of us have yet to see eSignatures implemented on a full-scale basis. In fact, one of the few remaining reasons people need fax machines is to fax contracts and other legal documents when scan-to-e-mail capabilities aren’t available.
A new announcement from Adobe stands to change the way documents are handled permanently. While Adobe has offered digital signatures with its product Adobe EchoSign, the company recently integrated eSignature capabilities into its popular Adobe Reader product, bringing digital signature capabilities to hundreds of thousands of users throughout the world…for free.
“The days of printing, signing and faxing back signed documents are numbered,” Adobe announced in its press release. “With Adobe Reader and EchoSign, we’re making it easy for anyone to send important contracts to customers so that they can quickly and easily sign and send them electronically and get the deal done faster.”
After updating Adobe Reader X, users will see a new function in the top right corner that reads “Sign.” When used on a smartphone or tablet, eSignature will allow the user to sign on the dotted line using a finger or stylus. On the desktop, the user can insert a saved signature, which can either be created using a service like MyLiveSignature, which allows the user to sign using a mouse or stylus, or My Free Signature Maker, which lets the user choose from a variety of signature-like fonts. These signatures can then be saved to the user’s computer and saved for use in Adobe Reader and other applications.
Electronic Signatures are covered legally under the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA) of 1999, which legally recognized electronic signatures as valid. This allows eSignatures to be covered in legal documents in all states but New York, Washington State, and Illinois, in which UETA is not yet acknowledged. These states have their own digital signature laws.
UETA has its own stipulations, some of which include:
- The signature must be logically associated with the document.
- Both parties must have agreed to conduct the transaction via electronic means.
- If the sender inhibits the receiver’s ability to either store or print the record, the document is not enforceable against that recipient.
UETA also specifies that if a law exists that requires a signature, an electronic signature will satisfy that requirement. This gives signers the confidence of knowing a digitally signed document is as legally valid as a document signed the old-fashioned way.
Now that Adobe Reader is incorporating digital signatures into its free version, practically every electronic device in America will have digital signing capabilities. While widespread adoption may be slow, this is the beginning of a new age of electronic document signing. It stands to save small businesses time and money, allowing owners to dispose of old fax machines and save on postage.
If you’re concerned about the legal ramifications of eSignatures, you can read more about UETA here.