Legal instrument

Legal instrument

"Legal instrument" is a legal term of art that is used for any written legal document such as a certificate, a deed, a will, an Act of Parliament or a law passed by a competent legislative body in municipal (domestic) or international law. Many legal instruments were written "under seal" by affixing a wax or paper seal to the document in evidence of its legal execution and authenticity (this could often remove the need for consideration in contract law); however, today most jurisdictions have done away with the requirement of documents being under seal in order to give them legal effect.

Electronic legal documents

Legal instruments have undergone a progressive process of dematerialisation as it is now possible to sign digital documents, have them date and time stamped, or otherwise verified through various schemes of encryption and document authentication without benefit of actual parchment, seal, stamp, paper, or even ink. These changes have occurred in various ways in various jurisdictions and are hardly uniform. As they are recent, there is also confusion and misunderstanding at many levels, including statute, regulation, and courts.

In particular, the United States Congress enacted the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act in 2000 specifying that no court could thereafter fail to recognize a contract simply because it was digitally signed. The law is very permissive, making essentially any electronic character in a contract sufficient. It is also quite restrictive in that it does not force the recognition of some document types in electronic form, no matter what the electronic character might be. No restriction is made to signatures which are adequately cryptographically tied to both the document text (see message digest) and to a particular key whose use should be restricted to certain persons (eg, the alleged sender). There is thus a gap between what the cryptographic engineering can provide and what the law assumes is both possible and meaningful.

Several states had already enacted laws on the subject of electronic legal documents and signatures before the U.S. Congress had acted, including Utah, Washington, and California to name only a few of the earliest. They vary considerably in intent, coverage, cryptographic understanding, and effect.

Several other nations and international bodies have also enacted statutes and regulations regarding the validity and binding nature of digital signatures.

To date, the variety (and inadequacy) of the definitions used for digital signatures (or electronic signatures) have produced a legal and contractual minefield for those who may be considering relying on the legality and enforceability of digitally signed contracts in any of many jurisdictions. Adequate legislation adequately informed by cryptographic engineering technology remains an elusive goal. That it has been fully, or adequately, achieved (in any jurisdiction) is a claim which must be taken with considerable caution.

See also

*Legal document assistant

External links

* [ FDA Draft Guidelines on Part 11 21 CFR: Electronic records; electronic signatures (pdf file)]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • legal instrument — noun (law) a document that states some contractual relationship or grants some right • Syn: ↑legal document, ↑official document, ↑instrument • Derivationally related forms: ↑instrument (for: ↑instru …   Useful english dictionary

  • legal instrument — document which creates legal relationships or attests to them; document used as a law …   English contemporary dictionary

  • Instrument — may refer to:* Instrument (film) * Instruments (band), a Canadian recording ensemble * Instruments (application), a performance visualizer;Types of instruments * Musical instrument, a device designed to produce music * Financial instrument, a… …   Wikipedia

  • Instrument of Surrender — is a name often given to surrendering documents of a military conflict, as those documents are legal instruments. Some such documents are: ;World War II *Japanese Instrument of Surrender *German Instrument of Surrender *Armistice between Italy… …   Wikipedia

  • instrument — A product traded at CME, i.e., the CME S&P 500 Index futures contract. Chicago Mercantile Exchange Glossary * * * instrument in‧stru‧ment [ˈɪnstrmənt] noun [countable] 1. also financial instrument FINANCE an investment such as a bond or share …   Financial and business terms

  • legal document — noun (law) a document that states some contractual relationship or grants some right • Syn: ↑legal instrument, ↑official document, ↑instrument • Derivationally related forms: ↑instrument (for: ↑in …   Useful english dictionary

  • instrument — Synonyms and related words: Bourdon tube, Charlie McCarthy, Danish balance, Federal, Gramophone, Gyropilot, Mach meter, Roman balance, Teletype, Weightometer, X ray machine, absolute altimeter, accelerometer, adapt, aerial reconnaissance camera,… …   Moby Thesaurus

  • Legal document assistant — A legal document assistant, or LDA (also commonly known as “legal document preparer,” “legal technician,” “online legal document provider” and “legal document clerk”) [ [ in name.html SCRIBE …   Wikipedia

  • legal opinion — noun the legal document stating the reasons for a judicial decision opinions are usually written by a single judge • Syn: ↑opinion, ↑judgment, ↑judgement • Derivationally related forms: ↑judge (for: ↑ …   Useful english dictionary

  • legal brief — noun a document stating the facts and points of law of a client s case • Syn: ↑brief • Topics: ↑law, ↑jurisprudence • Hypernyms: ↑legal document, ↑legal instrument, ↑official documen …   Useful english dictionary

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”