Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Click On The Dotted Line

By Samuel Lewis Published in The Business of Photography
Click On The Dotted Line
Today, there are two primary laws that give legal effect to electronic signatures in the U.S. The federal law, which was enacted in 2000, is the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce (ESIGN) Act. However, in a unique twist, the federal law doesn't apply where a state has enacted a version of the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA), which states started to enact in 1999. Today, UETA has been adopted by 47 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands (only New York, Illinois and Washington haven't adopted UETA, although each has enacted a form of electronic signature legislation). Neither of these laws requires the use of digital signatures, although each law's definition of "electronic signature" is broad enough to encompass and give legal effect to digital signatures. Neither ESIGN nor UETA requires the electronic signature to be printed in order to be enforceable.

While there are some additional requirements and limitations associated with the two electronic signature laws just mentioned, there are relatively few limitations associated with the practical application of electronic signatures in business. However, the laws aren't without potential pitfalls. One of the most common pitfalls is determining whether an electronic signature is intended to be a signature. For example, while a name appearing in a block of text automatically inserted at the end of an email—sometimes referred to by the misnomer "signature block"—probably won't be viewed as having the requisite intent to make it a signature, a typewritten name, initials or other closing manually typed at the end of an email may be seen as having the requisite intent.

The Practical Application Of Electronic Signatures For Photographers

While photographers—particularly those who travel extensively or are constantly on the go—can benefit from implementing and using electronic signatures in their business, there's at least one specific application where electronic signatures may prove particularly useful to photographers: model and property releases.

In late 2010, Getty Images announced on its contributor website that it had approved Easy Release, an iPhone/iPad app produced by ApplicationGap (www.ApplicationGap.com), for use by its contributors. The announcement marked the first time that Getty Images approved any app for creating model and property releases. "We are happy to report that we will now accept model and property releases generated electronically by approved iPhone/iPad applications...." The only limitation imposed was that Getty wouldn't accept app-generated releases from China, presumably due to local laws; however, Getty would accept Chinese-language releases generated by an approved app provided they're executed outside of China, and such images can still be licensed inside China.

There's at least one specific application where electronic signatures may prove particularly useful to photographers: model and property releases.
Getty also cautioned its contributors that "[a]s our form releases change from time to time, please be aware that you will continue to be responsible for insuring that the application you use to generate releases uses the correct [Getty] release version in effect at the time of submission."

Washington, D.C.-based photographer and ApplicationGap founder Robert Giroux saw Getty's announcement as a major step forward. "[W]hile many stock agencies [including, most notably, Alamy] have for months been accepting model and property releases created with Easy Release, approval by Getty Images means far more professionals will be able to take advantage of our application to save time and money." At the time that Giroux started work on Easy Release, there were no apps designed to deal with model releases.

Easy Release, which is available on the iTunes Store, can be used to capture and store information, including signatures, and ultimately generate and transmit fully executed model and property releases. Says Giroux, "We have worked hard to make sure Easy Release meets all of Getty's strict standards and requirements. Easy Release is now a better tool than ever for creating professional and reliable model and property releases quickly and easily from wherever you are." Easy Release is available for iOS and Android platforms.
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