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International Working Group Meeting on International Electronic Authentication Initiative

October 6, 1998
Montreal, Canada

The Internet Law & Policy Forum is sponsoring an international working group meeting to consider recent proposals for an international convention on electronic authentication. The meeting will be held in Vienna, Austria, on November 5-6, 1998, and is open to representatives of governments, international organizations, the private sector, and non-governmental organizations with an interest in international electronic authentication issues.

In recent years, there has been a flurry of legislative and regulatory activity worldwide concerning the use of digital signatures and other methods of electronic authentication. Legislators and policymakers in many different countries are grappling with a wide range of issues associated with electronic authentication techniques, including the legal effect of electronic signatures, the rights and duties of the parties to an authenticated transaction, and the standards for the operation of "trust infrastructures" that are used to confirm the validity of electronic signatures. These issues are also being addressed at the international level, including the proposed European Union Directive on Electronic Signatures and the efforts of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law to develop uniform rules for electronic signatures.

Many policymakers and commentators have become concerned that the adoption of divergent standards for the use and recognition of electronic signatures will significantly impede the expansion of global electronic commerce. In its recent statement on electronic commerce issues, the TABD noted that differences among national legislation and regulation could "potentially create a premature or patchwork solution to a global issue."

A recent survey commissioned by ILPF documents numerous respects in which national standards in this area are already beginning to diverge, and the extent to which these differences could impose obstacles to the use of electronic signatures in cross-border electronic commerce. One possible solution to this problem -- and one that has taken on greater salience in recent months -- is an international convention to establish binding standards for the use and recognition of electronic signatures.

The purpose of the Vienna meeting is to bring together a wide range of interested governmental and non-governmental representatives to discuss the need for, and possible terms of, such a convention. The meeting is being held immediately following the next meeting of the UNCITRAL Expert Group on Electronic Signatures in Vienna, so that many of the world's leading experts on these matters can attend. The meeting is intended to provide an informal setting in which participants can discuss the potential scope and content of an international convention on electronic authentication, in a setting that does not require the formulation of official positions or negotiation of specific terms. It is hoped that this exercise will advance international consideration of the convention proposal.

It is hoped that the meeting will last for one day, November 5, 1998, but space will be reserved if the participants wish to continue the discussions on November 6.

Space at the meeting is limited. Parties who respond by 16 October will be guaranteed a space for at least one attendee; parties who respond after 16 October will be accommodated as space permits. Interested parties should contact Sally Albertazzie at salbertazzie@steptoe.com.

For more information contact:
Ruth Day
, Executive Director

For membership information contact:
Marilyn Malenfant
, Administrative Coordinator

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