Getting your crew contracts signed: e-signatures versus e-consent

Despite the shift to digital, many in the film and TV production industry remain uncertain about the validity of e-signatures and e-consents when contracting crew.

In fact, it’s a common misconception that e-signatures and e-consents can only be used for non-contractual documents, like sickness declarations.

In reality, the law is technology neutral and essentially treats e-signatures and e-consents as mere tools which facilitate the making and entering into of contracts.

But what’s the difference between the two?

For a step-by-step guide to contracting crew, see our checklist for production teams.

Digital signature using a stylus

What is an e-signature?

An e-signature is effectively anything in electronic form which is:

  • Attached to or logically associated with other electronic data; and

  • Used by the signatory to sign.

Are e-signatures legally binding?

As mentioned above, in most cases relating to the engagement of crew, e-signatures are just as valid as “wet-ink” originals provided that the basics of contract law have been satisfied.

This position has been supported by legislation and various legal professional and governmental bodies have released guidance documents to this effect.

Contract on smart phone

Today, the term “e-signature” has come to be associated with e-signatures which are appended using software like DocuSign. “E-consent” is commonly used to refer to other means of evidencing acceptance electronically, such as tick-boxes.

E-consents have been used since the dawn of the internet. Notably, every time a person buys a product online, they have to provide their contact and payment details and tick a box stating that they agree to be bound by the website’s terms and conditions.

E-consents are also frequently used in many contexts where there’s no real or valuable form of IP or assets that need to exchange hands.

Signing on tablet computer

Although those agreements are more common in a business-to-consumer context, the same principle applies to business-to-business contracts.

The courts have considered and accepted various forms of e-consent on multiple occasions, including a name typed at the bottom of an email and the clicking of an “I accept” tick-box on a website.

In many areas of law, tick-boxes or similar e-consents have been treated as a form of signature - and therefore an agreement to be bound - provided that the mark intended to give authenticity to the document.

For more information on e-signatures and e-consent, watch our webinar Quick and compliant crew contracting in the UK.

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