Delaware OKs digital signatures bill

Delaware Gov. Thomas Carper signed a bill that makes digitally signed documents as legal as traditional ones, joining other states in adopting the uniform law.

Following President Clinton's signing of similar federal legislation earlier this month, Carper signed the bill Friday and sent it to the legislative council by e-mail, verifying it with a digital notary. Digital notaries are similar to signatures in that they verify documents, but they fix the exact content of a document, including the digital signature, at a specific time. Unlike digital certificates, digital notaries do not expire.

Jim Smith, the governor's deputy press secretary, hopes Delaware's Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (House Bill 492) will promote electronic commerce. "This will remove the barriers from digital contracts, which many companies are already using," Smith said.

Mark Headd, a policy advisor for the governor, said the law will particularly help the state because Delaware has half the world's Fortune 500 companies.

"Delaware is the home to many companies, and many are using digital signatures already," he said. "Now, if they have contracts with other firms, this will now apply."

The National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws developed the legislation, which many states have adopted. Smith said that the document was digitally notarized to showcase a more secure digital verification process.

The bill-signing ceremony was also Web-cast at the state's World Wide Web site (www.state.de.us) and Surety.com's site, the company that provided the digital notarization product for the governor.

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