Does a digital signature have the same legal value as a hand one?

Published on : 01 February 20213 min reading time

A digital signature is a paper-saving and time-saving process. Since the entry into force of regulation n°2000-230 of 13 March 2000, it can have an authentic value. This law confirms the legal value of the digital signature. The latter can bind the author’s consent in the same way as a manual signature.

Characteristics of the digital signature

The digital signature refers to a mechanism that guarantees the integrity of a dematerialized document and authenticates the signatory, by analogy with the manual signature on physical paper. Indeed, subject to the use of a valid identification process that guarantees its link with the document to which it is attached, it constitutes literal and authentic proof in the same way as a handwritten signature under Article 1316-4 of the Civil Code. However, the legal value of a digital signature is valid when a digital signature certificate guarantees the identity of the signatory. In electronic communications, it is a solution to identity theft and falsification. It constitutes an additional element demonstrating the informed consent of the author. The electronic signature is the digital equivalent of the handwritten signature. For more information, click on yousign.com.

Some criteria must be met for a digital signature to have legal value according to the European eIDAS regulation. Firstly, the signatory must use the digital certificate to authenticate his identity. He must not challenge his signature as it cannot be revoked. This mechanism must be certified as compliant.  It must meet high-security standards. Signed dematerialized paper cannot be altered. It cannot be altered. Its total integrity must be respected. The author must comply with the obligation to ensure that signed digital papers are kept in a secure digital safe for ten years.

How can the reliability of a digital signature be demonstrated?

The digital signature must be admissible in a court of law. However, depending on the technical process used, it is important to differentiate the reliability of the digital signature. The author of the signature must demonstrate that the signing process is reliable as far as the simple signature is concerned. The signature may benefit from the presumption of legality and reliability for an advanced signature made by a digital certification service provider. However, the advanced digital signature must meet certain criteria. For the qualified signature, until proof to the contrary is demonstrated, it is presumed to be reliable in law.

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