Spotlight Date: 
December, 2002

Some Registers have raised questions recently about whether to accept a document when it appears that the signature on the document was printed onto the paper by a laser printer or other high quality computer printer rather than written by hand. In some cases it is becoming very difficult to differentiate between original signatures and facsimile signatures. As you know, in the past the common law (when not changed by the Legislature in acts such as the Uniform Commercial Code) indicated that documents with stamped or printed signatures should be rejected as not containing “original” signatures. However, this does not have to be the case today.

In 2001, the Tennessee General Assembly enacted the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (2001 Public Chapter 72) codified at T.C.A. § 47-10-101, et seq. This act deals with electronic records generally as well as electronic signatures and allows broad usage of such records.
This act defines an electronic signature as “an electronic sound, symbol, or process attached to or logically associated with a record and executed or adopted by a person with the intent to sign the record.” A record is defined as “information that is inscribed on a tangible medium or that is stored in an electronic or other medium and is retrievable in perceivable form.” Although the act is concerned primarily with the electronic transmission of records and deals with electronic signatures chiefly in the context of the electronic transmission of documents, the definition of electronic signature is sufficiently broad to include the facsimile inscription of a signature upon a paper document as well as the electronic signature associated with an electronically transmitted document. Although an electronically produced signature on a paper document is not explicitly discussed in the text of the act or the comments to the statutes, the definitions noted above and the legislative intent to allow broader use of new technology regarding electronically generated documents is sufficient in our view to allow the Register to adopt a policy to record paper documents with electronically generated signatures.

SPOTLIGHT ON CURRENT ISSUES, Electronic Signatures, page 2


1. This act DOES NOT require a record to be created, generated, sent, communicated, received, stored, or otherwise processed or used by electronic means or in electronic form.

2. The Register may choose whether or not to accept electronic signatures on paper documents as well as whether or not to receive electronic transmissions of documents. T.C.A. § 47-10-118.

3. If the Register adopts a policy to take paper documents with electronic signatures, but not electronic transmissions, the Register should document the policy and keep this documentation in the office. It is not necessary to file a statement with the Comptroller of the Treasury unless the Register intends to receive the electronic transmission of documents. T.C.A. § 47-10-119.

4. If the Register elects to implement an electronic business system that allows for the electronic transmission of documents, the Register is required to file a statement with the Comptroller of the Treasury 30 days prior to offering such service. This statement must document certain information about the computer hardware and software to be used, procedures and interna l controls governing the system, estimated costs and benefits and other information. The specific details of the information that must be included in this statement are described in T.C.A. § 47-10-119.

Please contact your regional CTAS county government consultant if further clarification is needed.

The University of Tennessee does not discriminate on the basis of race, sex, color, religion, national origin, age, disability, or veteran status in provision of educational programs and services or employment opportunities and benefits. This policy extends to both employment by and admission to The University.