German digital signature law goes into effect

Germany's new digital signature law went into effect Tuesday, making the country one of the first in the European Union to implement regulations giving electronic signatures the same legal weight as handwritten ones.

The law brings Germany in line with a European Commission directive on digital signatures which was passed on December 13, 1999. Member states are expected to comply with the directive by the deadline of July 2001.

From now on, transactions between a partner in Germany and another anywhere in the EU can be sealed by means of so-called e-signatures, Germany's Ministry for Economics and Technology said in a statement. Lawmakers plan to quickly modify existing regulations to bring them in line with the new law.

The new law regulates the "security infrastructure," setting minimum standards which e-signature technology must meet on the part of the entity that offers the e-signature technology. The ability to conclude legally-binding contracts via the Internet is expected to give an important boost to electronic commerce in Europe.

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