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Bench & Bar of Minnesota is the official publication of the Minnesota State Bar Association.

Digital Signatures

With the proliferation of electronic correspondence, many people are looking for ways to add a digital copy of their signature to documents and email. Modern scanners make it easy to create a digital copy of your pen-and-ink signature.  But should you?

The answer in many cases is no.  Most email programs send graphics such as a digital signature as an insecure file that can easily be copied and fraudulently used for other purposes.  Likewise, distribution of a word processing (e.g., Microsoft Word) file with a digital signature may allow users to lift the signature for use elsewhere.

A safer alternative is to send digital signatures within PDF documents (but only after taking a few precautions).  Adobe Acrobat and other PDF editors often allow you to insert a digital signature into a file.  If you do so, protect your signature by either “flattening” the PDF document (i.e., compressing all of the PDF document elements into a single “layer”) or by securing the PDF document so that users are unable to copy the digital signature from the PDF without a password.  This and lots of other useful information about using PDF documents in a legal practice can be found at Adobe’s Acrobat for Legal Professionals Blog, http://blogs.adobe.com/acrolaw.

Bob Striker
Striker Business Law LLC
Minneapolis

 

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