Are electronic signatures legal in Japan?
Japan’s legal model is a tiered one. This means that Qualified Electronic Signatures are seen as a legal type of e-signature. This doesn’t mean that a non-QES e-Signature can’t be submitted in court, but it will need extra evidence to support it.
Japan operates Civil Law systems, which are arranged according to a plan or a system and come from Roman law. Civil law systems are based on:
- Generally a written constitution based on specific codes (e.g. civil code, codes covering corporate law, administrative law, tax law and constitutional law) preserving basic rights and duties
- There is little scope for judge-made law in civil, criminal and commercial courts (only legislative enactments are considered binding for all)
- In some civil law systems, e.g. Germany, writings of legal scholars have significant influence on the courts
- Courts specific to the underlying codes – there are therefore usually separate constitutional court, administrative court and civil court systems that opine on consistency of legislation and administrative acts with and interpret that specific code;
- Less freedom of contract – many provisions are implied into a contract by law and parties cannot contract out of certain provisions.
A civil law system is generally more prescriptive than a common law system.
There are a number of provisions implied into a contract under the civil law system – this will often result in a contract being shorter than one in a common law country.
Japanese e-signature law sees electronic signatures as a legitimate method of entering into agreements and in general; Japanese courts give generous discretion in admitting and evaluating evidence.
The Act on Electronic Signatures and Certification Business (Act No. 102 of 31 May 2000) (Electronic Signature Law) took effect from April 2001.
This law quotes “An e-signature is a measure taken with respect to information that can be recorded in an electromagnetic record (a record in electronic, magnetic or any other form not perceivable by human senses and that is used for information processing by computers), and that falls under both of the following requirements:
It indicates that the person who has taken the measure created the information.
It confirms whether the information has been altered.”