Friday, July 12, 2013


According to Wikipedia[1], a signature (from Latin: signare, "to sign") is a handwritten (and often stylized) depiction of someone's name, nickname, or even a simple "X" or other mark that a person writes on documents as a proof of identity and intent.  The legal-dictionary[2] defines “signature” as “a mark or sign made by an individual on an instrument or document to signify knowledge, approval, acceptance, or obligation”. The definition of “signature” is also found in Stroud’s English Judicial Dictionary[3]:
“Speaking generally, a signature is the writing, or otherwise affixing, a person’s name, or a mark to represent his name, by himself or by his authority ..., with the intention of authenticating a document as being that of, or as binding on, the person whose name or mark is so written or affixed.”
In R. v. Zwicker[4] the learned judge quoted from Falconbridge On Banking, and Bills of Exchange[5]:
“A signature may be defined as the writing of a person’s name on a bill in order to authenticate and give effect to some contract thereon. A pencil signature and also a lithographed or stamped signature is sufficient, etc.”
The judge in R. v. Fox[6] has quoted from the case of Bennett v. Brumfitt[7], as follows:
“The ordinary mode of affixing a signature to a document is not by the hand alone, but by the hand coupled with some instrument, such as a pen or a pencil. I see no distinction between using a pen or a pencil and using a stamp, where the impression is put upon the paper by the proper hand of the party signing. In each case it is the personal act of the party, and to all intents and purposes a signing of the documents by him.”
Another type of signature exists which is independent of one's language, is digital signatures and electronics signature. According to section 2 of Digital Signature Act 1997[8], “digital signature” means a transformation of a message[9] using an asymmetric cryptosystem[10] such that a person having the initial message and the signer’s public key can accurately determine—
(a) whether the transformation was created using the private key[11] that corresponds to the signer’s public key[12]; and
(b) whether the message has been altered since the transformation was made.
(NOTE: The above article is part of my draft article entitled "Have You Signed")

[1] (8 June 2013)
[2] (9 June 2013)
[3] Burke, J. &  P Allsop (Eds.). 1951-1953. Stroud’s English Judicial Dictionary. 3rd ed. vol. 4, London: Sweet & Maxwell Limited. p. 2783.
[4] (1980), 38 N.S.R. (2d) 361, 53 C.C.C. (2d) 239, 249 (C.A.)
[5] Roger, A.W. 1969. Falconbridge On Banking, and Bills of Exchange. Toronto: Canada Law Book Limited; 7th edition, p. 349
[6] 27 C.R. 132, [1958] O.W.N. 141, 120 C.C.C. 289 (Ont. C.A.).
[7] (1867), L.R. 3 C.P. 28
[8] Act 562. Malaysia. Long Title & Preamble:  An Act to make provision for, and to regulate the use of, digital signatures and to provide for matters connected therewith.
[9] “message” means a digital representation of information – section 2.
[10] Asymmetric cryptography or public-key cryptography is cryptography in which a pair of keys is used to encrypt and decrypt a message so that it arrives securely: (8 June 2013).
[11] “private key” means the key of a key pair used to create a digital signature – section 2.
[12] “public key” means the key of a key pair used to verify a digital signature – section 2.

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