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Legit At Last

Taking one big step forward in cyber law, Georgia validates e-document protection.

This story appears in the August 1999 issue of

Can a faxed signature or an e-mail message carrying an agreement to a contract serve as a valid contract in a court of law? In Georgia¾and upward of 40 other states--they can. Georgia recently enacted the Electronic Writings and Signatures Act, legalizing business conducted by e-mail and fax. The ruling means any business or entity conducting transactions and negotiating deals via fax or e-mail now have contracts as valid and binding as oral and written contracts, says H. West Richards, executive director of the Georgia Electronic Commerce Association, which spearheaded the effort.

There is precedence for handshakes and telegrams to legally bind agreements, legal experts note. Some have felt e-mail and faxes would enjoy the same protection. But with no direct case law in , state leaders sought a model that would apply, often using case law based on oral agreements or telecommunications law as a foundation. That poses a problem--as Richards points out, "it doesn't always transfer over nicely."

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