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Business Lawyer

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Federal legislation establishing legal parity between electronic records and signatures and their paper and ink counterparts was signed into law June 30, 2000, and became effective, at least for most purposes, on October 1. The Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (E-SIGN or the Act) effectively sweeps away a myriad of anachronistic and inconsistent state and federal requirements for paper and ink documents and signatures. In so doing, E-SIGN eliminates many of the legal uncertainties that have surrounded the use of electronic media in commerce and should enable businesses and consumers alike to more fully realize the cost savings possible through all-electronic transactions.

If E-SIGN eliminates old uncertainties, however, it also creates new ones. These arise principally with respect to interpreting and applying: (i) E-SIGN's unusual preemption provisions, which allow qualifying state laws to "modify, limit or supersede" the principal provisions of E-SIGN; (ii) E-SIGN's extensive consumer consent provisions; and (iii) E-SIGN's provisions allowing federal and state agencies to "interpret" the Act, particularly in the context of the regulators' own existing and proposed rules on the use of electronic records and signatures.

This Article will explore those issues as part of a discussion of E-SIGN's substantive provisions and requirements and their relationship to comparable provisions in the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA).



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