Signatures have played a crucial role in human history, serving as a means of authentication, identification, and approval. From the ancient seals of the Sumerians to the modern-day digital signatures, the evolution of signatures reflects our pursuit of efficiency, security, and progress. In this blog, we will explore the fascinating journey of signatures throughout history, highlighting key milestones and advancements that have shaped the way we authenticate and authorize documents.
Twenty-three years ago, the legal acceptance of electronic signatures took a significant leap forward with the signing of the Federal ESIGN Act by President Clinton. Since then, we have celebrated National ESIGN Day on June 30th each year. As we reflect on the journey of signatures throughout history, let's explore how the past has shaped the modern-day eSignature.
3500 BC: The Birth of Signatures
Our journey begins around 3500 BC when the Sumerians introduced the earliest form of signatures known as seals. These seals, typically attached to small round cylinders, were pressed into wet clay to leave a distinctive impression. Seals served as a mark of identification and authentication, used for various purposes such as official documents, commercial transactions, and personal belongings
AD 57: Hanko Seal in Japan
In AD 57, the Hanko seal emerged in Japan as a way to delegate authority and signify authorship and ownership. Even today, Hankos continue to be used in Japanese culture for legal and personal purposes. The Hanko seal represents a unique and personal mark, deeply ingrained in the tradition and social fabric of Japan.
1600s: Signatures on Paper
The 17th century witnessed a significant shift as signatures transitioned from seals to paper. Written signatures became commonplace, providing a more convenient and portable method of approval. In 1677, the Parliament of England ruled that certain contracts must include a signature for legal validity, solidifying the importance of signatures on paper documents.
1867: Statue of Frauds
In 1867, the introduction of the Statue of Frauds recognized alternative forms of signatures that met the legal requirements for written agreements. This opened doors for innovations like telegraphed signatures (1918), audio recordings (1972), and the advent of fax machines (1988). These alternative signatures marked significant advancements in facilitating remote and efficient document authentication.
20th Century: The Rise and Fall of Fax Machines
The 20th century witnessed the rise of fax machines as a popular and efficient means of sending documents with legally enforceable signatures. Invented in the mid-19th century, fax machines gained prominence in the 1980s. However, they faced challenges at the dawn of the digital age, including transmission uncertainties, illegible faxes, and the need for physical machines. Despite their limitations, fax machines played a vital role in bridging the gap between traditional signatures and the digital revolution.
The Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA) is a model law that was created to provide a legal framework for the use and acceptance of electronic signatures and records in interstate and international commerce. The history of UETA can be traced back to the 1990s when the rapid growth of the internet and digital technologies raised the need for clear and consistent rules governing electronic transactions.
In 1999, the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL) approved the UETA as a uniform law that states could adopt to facilitate electronic transactions. The UETA was designed to harmonize and bring consistency to the laws surrounding electronic commerce across different jurisdictions within the United States.
The primary goal of UETA is to ensure that electronic signatures and records are given the same legal validity and enforceability as their paper-based counterparts. It establishes the legal framework for the use of electronic or digital signatures in contracts, agreements, and other types of transactions. UETA sets forth the criteria for electronic signatures to be deemed valid, such as demonstrating the signer's intent to sign the document.
UETA also addresses issues related to the retention and storage of electronic records, the admissibility of electronic evidence in court, and the use of electronic notices and disclosures in various industries. It provides guidelines for the authentication and integrity of electronic records, as well as rules for the time and manner of sending and receiving electronic communications. Since its inception, UETA has been adopted by all U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
2000: The ESIGN Act
In the year 2000, a significant milestone was achieved in the realm of electronic signatures—the signing into law of the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN Act) by President Clinton, following its successful passage through Congress. This landmark legislation plays a pivotal role in affirming the legal authority and validity of eSignatures.
The ESIGN Act stands as a testament to the growing recognition of the importance and validity of electronic signatures in facilitating secure and efficient business transactions. By establishing a framework that ensures the legal enforceability of eSignatures, this law has paved the way for the widespread adoption of digital documentation and signature processes. This legislation has played a vital role in shaping the digital landscape, promoting technological advancements, and fostering a climate of trust and confidence in eSignature solutions.
2002: SIGNiX is Founded
SIGNiX, a leading provider of secure and compliant digital signature solutions, has made significant contributions to the most secure version of an electronic signature known as a digital signature. The Company was founded in 2002 by Jay Jumper and Pem Guerry, who recognized the potential of digital signatures to revolutionize the way businesses handle documents and streamline workflows with superior security and legal evidence.
In its early years, SIGNiX focused on developing a robust and legally compliant electronic signature platform. The Company understood the importance of security, integrity, and enforceability when it came to digital signatures, and it built its solutions with these principles in mind. By prioritizing compliance with industry regulations and global standards, SIGNiX gained a reputation for providing trustworthy and reliable digital signature services.
Over time, SIGNiX continued to enhance its platform, incorporating advanced features and functionalities to meet the evolving needs of businesses across various sectors. The Company placed a strong emphasis on user experience, ensuring that its digital signature solution was intuitive, user-friendly, and accessible from any device or location.
SIGNiX gained particular recognition for its commitment to security and compliance. Its solutions were designed to meet the stringent requirements of industries such as healthcare, finance, legal, and government, where document integrity and data protection are paramount. By adhering to the rigorous security protocols of true digital signatures, SIGNiX positioned itself as a trusted partner for organizations seeking a secure and legally compliant online signature solution
The Future of Signatures:
With the digital age in full swing, the question arises: What lies ahead for the signature? While only time and confidential product roadmaps can reveal the full extent, we anticipate a continued acceleration of digital signatures as we embrace the possibilities of the digital era. National ESIGN Day will serve as a reminder of the ongoing evolution and impact of signatures for years to come.
As we celebrate National ESIGN Day and reflect on the historical progression of signatures, we recognize the transformative power of technology in revolutionizing how we authenticate and authorize documents. From ancient seals to modern eSignatures, the journey highlights the human desire for efficiency, security, enforceability, and progress. Let us embrace the future, where signatures continue to evolve in the ever-advancing digital landscape.