How to sign a digital document

Digital signature of documents is increasingly used and accepted in a growing number of areas, due to its security and ease of use.

In Italy now most documents can be digitally signed, such as business agreements, employment contracts, certified quotes, rental agreements and contracts related to professions and activities.

It is therefore important to know how to properly sign a digital document and with which tools.

In the past, to digitize a contract, the original paper contract was printed and signed and then simply scanned, saving it in an unmodifiable format such as .pdf.

The availability of advanced photo editing software has made it possible to modify scanned documents with the aim of falsifying their content.

Clearly, in such a context, a scanned document could not have legal value and be compared to a manually signed paper original.

So on December 13, 1999 the European Parliament issued the Directive 1999/93/EC to regulate how a digital document can be created, validated, stored over time, transferred and duplicated.

The Directive of the European Parliament was implemented in our system with the Decree of the President of the Council of Ministers of January 13, 2014.

Requirements for the signature of a digital document in .pdf format

The first requirement is the purchase of a personal digital certificate that must be issued by certified suppliers who are entitled to provide the electronic signature service.

In Europe the verification of the requisites to obtain the certification is in charge of a special European Commission, appointed by the European Union.

In addition, in order to ensure the harmonization of the rules and to define the modalities and the scope of validity related to the use of electronic signature within the European Union, the eIDAS (acronym of electronic IDentification, Authentication and trust Services) regulation has been drafted and all the electronic signature service providers are required to sign it.

In Italy, the AGID (Agenzia per L'Italia Digitale) is the body in charge of supervising the application of and compliance with eIDAS standards and of selecting the most reliable providers.

How does the signing process of a digital document take place

The process of signing a digital document is very simple and intuitive: the signing parties receive via email a link to the document to be read and digitally signed, the signing parties authenticate themselves through a security code sent to the registered phone number or through a verification and authentication process of their ID that is completed online.

The document is then sealed after the electronic signature is completed and validated.

At the end of the process, the parties will receive a document in an uneditable .pdf format that can be filed with legal value.

Digital Signature Advantages

The advantages of digital signature on a contract are quite obvious and intuitive: it is no longer necessary to be physically in the same place to sign the agreement, the digital copy of the contract can be easily archived, is not perishable and can be consulted remotely at any time.

In addition, the absence of a paper document to be archived saves a lot of space that can be dedicated to other uses with important savings.

It is estimated that over 2.5 trillion files in .pdf files have already been exchanged all over the world to sign documents and agreements of any kind.

When is it not possible to use a contract with electronic signature

The legislator has established that some types of contracts cannot be signed with a digital certificate but still require a handwritten signature on a paper document: these are all the documents that require the presence of a notary as, for example, the purchase contract of a property, consumer loan agreements or contracts that define the transfer of a corporate asset.