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Electronic Signatures


Lawdit Solicitors - Expert Author

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Released 23 January 2008

There are no legal controls on the use or development or importation of encryption technologies in the UK.There is currently no statutory scheme for the approval of certification authorities. The UK government instead prefers an industry-led approvals process and such self-regulation has proved sufficient to date.

The legislation governing digital signatures can be found in the Electronic Communications Act 2000 (ECA), and the Electronic Signatures Regulations 2002 (SI 2002/318).

There is no legal definition of a digital signature although in Section 7(2), ECA an electronic signature is referred to as "so much of anything in electronic form as:

a) is incorporated into or otherwise logically associated with any electronic communication or electronic data; and

b) purports to be so incorporated or associated for the purpose of being used in establishing the authenticity of the communication or data, the integrity of the communication or data, or both."

In any legal proceedings, an electronic signature, incorporated into or logically associated with a particular electronic communication or particular electronic data (or the certification by any person of such a signature), is admissible in evidence in relation to any question as to the authenticity or integrity of that particular electronic communication or electronic data (section 7(1), ECA). It is for the courts to decide in each case whether an electronic signature has been correctly used and what weight should be attributed to it (based, for example, on the authentication or integrity of a message).

An "advanced electronic signature" is defined in the Electronic Signatures Regulations 2002 as an electronic signature which is:

The signatory is uniquely linked.

It identifes the signatory.

Created using means that the signatory can maintain under his sole control.

Linked to the data to which it relates in such a manner that any subsequent change of the data is detectable.

While there is no specific legislation governing Cartification Providers there is a British Standard namely British Standard 7799 ("Code of practice for information security management") which addresses the issue of standards for digital signatures (see section 12.3).

Michael Coyle is a solicitor advocate who specialises in information technology law and intellectual property law.

About the Author

Lawdit Solicitors offer services and advice for litigation, commercial contracts, Intellectual Property and IT legal agreements. We are experts in commercial law with a heavy emphasis on Intellectual Property, Internet and e-commerce law. Lawdit is a member of the International Trademark Association, the Solicitors' Association of Higher Court Advocates and we are the appointed Solicitors to the largest webdesign association in the world, the United Kingdom Website Designers Association.

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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2008-01-27 22:12:30 in Legal Articles

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