States Endorse Digital Signature Bill

A bill to create uniform national legal standards for the use of electronic signatures received the full support of state governments at a U.S. Senate hearing yesterday.

"I want to express to the committee my wholehearted support for this bill," Ray Campbell, general council for the Massachusetts Information Technology Division, testified before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

"I am of the opinion that the Millennium Digital Commerce Act is a timely and appropriate piece of legislation," Campbell said. "It takes cognizance of the unique characteristics of the Internet, it is narrowly tailored to address specific legal barriers, it leverages existing sources of law in a way that promotes stability and certainty, and it preserves freedom of choice for market participants."

The Millennium Digital Commerce Act sets a technology-neutral standard for the use of electronic signatures in transactions with government and business that will allow it to continue to stand as technology changes, Campbell said.

The act will serve as an interim policy and future guidance for state governments and industry trying to conduct business with people all over the country by bringing uniformity to the electronic signature legislation in each state.

"Our Millennium Digital Commerce Act will ensure that individuals and organizations in different states are held to their agreements and obligations even if their respective states have different rules concerning electronically signed documents," said Sen. Spencer Abraham (R-Mich.).

The bill does not automatically step in and force policy upon the states or pre-empt state law, which has been a key sticking point in previous electronic-commerce legislation, such as the Internet Tax Freedom Act passed last year.

Instead, it encourages continued innovation at the state level while urging states to comply in whatever fashion they want with a "consistent national baseline," such as the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Law's uniform electronic transaction legislation, which is expected to be released soon, Abraham said.

"I think that the Congress should tread very lightly when pre-empting the states...and this bill does tread lightly," Campbell said.

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