A school has challenged the Schools and Libraries Division's requirement that it file a certification signature on paper, saying that the requirement is in violation of the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (the E-Sign Act), which took effect on Oct 1, 2000.
In an Aug. 9, 2001 filing to the Federal Communications Commission, the St. John Central School of Marietta, Ohio, appealed the SLD's rejection of the school's Year 4 Form 471 application. The school filed an online application on Jan. 12, 2001, but did not receive the original signature on paper until Jan. 19, 2001, the day after the application filing window closed.
The E-Sign Act says, in part, that "(1) a signature, contract or other record relating to such transaction may not be denied legal effect, validity, or enforceability solely because it is in electronic form and (2) a contract relating to such transaction may not be denied legal effect, validity, or enforceability solely because an electronic signature or electronic record was used in its formation."
In addition, the school's lawyer noted that under the E-Sign Act, the only time state and federal agencies can require a paper signature is if there is a "compelling government interest relating to law enforcement or national security." The school said, "Clearly in this situation there is no such compelling government interest relating to law enforcement," and that prevention of fraud was not sufficient justification for the requirement because such a requirement would undermine the purpose of the E-Sign Act.
The appeal also notes that in September 2000, following the passage of the E-Sign Act, the FCC began permitting long-distance carriers to accept electronic signatures instead of requiring the submission of original signatures as in the past. It also noted that the FCC does not require a signed original signature on any other application that it accepts electronically.