NBA Point Guard Inks Five-Year $98 Million Deal All from an iPad

By Steve Anderson July 13, 2012

Point guard, Deron Williams signed a contract for five years with the Brooklyn Nets Wednesday morning, and all at a value of $98 million. While contracts like this aren't anything new for the NBA, or the NFL or MLB for that matter, what's so new about this one is how Williams completed the contract: with his iPad. It's all made possible by SignNow, a newly-minted company in California that's making contracts a lot easier to send, sign, and return all without ever needing to involve paper.

President of SignNow, Andrew Ellis described his company's value in a world in which contracts, endorsement deals, and similar agreements are being increasingly read, signed and returned on mobile devices, saying, "The key to the shift has been making signatures look great while being more secure than pen and ink. To our knowledge, this is the largest contract signed to date [using SignNow]." Considering that the company has seen over half a million documents signed with SignNow since its launch earlier this year, it's safe to say that that assertion is an important one for a variety of reasons.

There is, however, one crucial issue that some attorneys are pointing out: though it's legal to sign and return digital copies of documents, for maximum protection against potential legal issues, it's advisable to also sign and return a paper copy as well. The size of the contract, coupled with the differences in location between the signature and the origin of the contract--Williams signed in Nevada while at a training camp for the Olympic basketball team, while the Brooklyn Nets are clearly in New York--makes it especially important to supplement with written paper documents. The issue, according to Kyle Carlton, an attorney in Dallas, TX, is that digital signature laws have not advanced to where they should be. This has given rise to issues of what exactly constitutes things like "presence" and "witnesses", even what defines "signing" due to a lack of uniformity across state lines.

While Carlton's assessment is likely correct, it raises a difficult issue for things like SignNow. The whole point of SignNow is to eliminate the paper component, and instead allow users to legally sign documents from mobile devices. Requiring a paper backup may provide maximum legal protection, but it makes SignNow and its contemporaries somewhat redundant; why bother with digital signatures when users will simply turn to the paper contract to settle any disputes that arise in the first place?

What needs to happen, on the surface, is simply a uniformity across state lines to ensure that this kind of signature on a digital document carries just as much weight as a signature with ink on paper. Until that happens, SignNow and the like will be little more than clever oddities, never carrying as much force as that paper with ink on it. We all want consumers to be protected here, and keeping forged signatures out of criminals' hands is a step worth applauding. But with the growing globalization of business, the need for a simple--but still safe--digital equivalent seems more necessary than ever.

Edited by Brooke Neuman

Contributing TechZone360 Writer

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