Has anyone had any experience with the use of the voice as a legal signature (presumably by way of a recording)? Is there any case law on the topic, one way or the other?
When we did the UECA in 1999, we had in mind that a voice mail message might be an electronic document and the association of the content with the speaker could well constitute a signature.
There is some law that a signature must be an intentional act, and whether just saying ‘Hello, it’s John, I accept your offer to sell me your house’ would constitute an intention to sign, I am not sure.
There is also a lot of law finding all sorts of marks and codes to be signatures, usually to prevent someone from getting out of an obligation on the ground that the Statute of Frauds required a more formal signature. So the degree of intention needed may be small.
The UNCITRAL Electronic Communications Convention allows electronic signatures to fulfil legal signing requirements if the method used is shown to ‘identify the party and to indicate that party’s intention in respect of the information contained in the electronic communication’. So my voice mail example above would qualify under the ECC.
Is there some reason that a voice message should not satisfy that definition?
So: how about voice mail – or other form of recording? (One imagines a transaction where party is unable to write, or a remote transaction done by phone or on video conference.) Assuming that the questions of storage and authentic reproduction are solved, is there a problem taking the recording itself as a signature? Does it matter about the recording medium: digital or other (probably not on a wax cylinder, these days)?
Is this any different from using a voice recording to be the document itself, i.e. to serve as writing? Would that be problematic, in your view?
By the way, Australia’s Electronic Transactions Act seems to limit the use of recorded speech as electronic communication. The definition of ‘electronic communications’ says it means this:
(b) a communication of information in the form of speech by means of guided and/or unguided electromagnetic energy, where the speech is processed at its destination by an automated voice recognition system.
The ULCC was aware of the Australian text and decided not to put any such limit on our law.