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

By Jeffery D. Zbar

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Can a faxed signature or an e-mail message carrying an agreementto a contract serve as a valid contract in a court of law? InGeorgia¾and upward of 40 other states--they can. Georgiarecently enacted the Electronic Writings and Signatures Act,legalizing business conducted by e-mail and fax. The ruling meansany business or government entity conducting transactions andnegotiating deals via fax or e-mail now have contracts as valid andbinding 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 bindagreements, legal experts note. Some have felt e-mail and faxeswould enjoy the same protection. But with no direct case law ine-commerce, state leaders sought a model that would apply, oftenusing case law based on oral agreements or telecommunications lawas a foundation. That poses a problem--as Richards points out,"it doesn't always transfer over nicely."

Consequently, Congress is considering a digital signatures bill.The National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws, afederal-state consortium, is reviewing a Uniform ElectronicTransactions Act (UETA) that creates groundwork for digitalagreement uniformity.

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