TOKYO (04/14/2000) - Three Japanese government ministries today submitted a bill to the country's parliament that seeks to give electronic signatures the same status in law as handwritten signatures and personal seals.
Under discussion since the middle of 1999, the bill was drafted and submitted by the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications (MPT), the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) and the Ministry of Justice (MOJ), a spokesman for the MPT said.
The move comes in response to the growing use of e-commerce and a lack of clear rules covering the use of electronic signatures and certification in Japan.
At present in Japan a personal seal or stamp, called an inkan, and not a handwritten signature is generally used when official documents need to be signed. The framework for the inkan system is similar to that of electronic signatures in that the signature is registered with the government, at the local city office in the case of the inkan. When used on documents, a certificate of authentication received from the city office is generally presented with the seal to prove the party's identity.
Electronic signatures work in a similar way with the signature and an accompanying digital certificate, provided electronically by an authentication center, proving identity.