For the purpose of this question, let us assume the contract is for common goods and services.

Lets say I meet a Plumber over some online marketplace (e.g. Facebook, Craigslist, etc) and he writes that he will fix so and so problem with my bathroom while guaranteeing that he will pay out-of-pocket for any potential unexpected damages that might be incurred during the repairs (e.g. flooding of my house if he proves to be incompetent).

Another hypothetical scenario is where I commission a local graphic designer to create a logo for my new business. During the negotiation phase, the graphic designer acknowledges that he will hand over all copyright claims to the newly created work once he has been paid. The designer makes this pledge via an email, as opposed to a signed written agreement.

In either scenario, are their promises legally binding?

1 Answer 1


Contracts don’t have to be in writing

Generally, there are specific exemptions. For example, in some jurisdictions, copyright transfers have to be in writing.

Written contracts do not have to take any particular form

Again, in general, some specific contracts may need to be in particular forms or explicitly deal with particular matters.

Writing doesn’t mean ink on paper

Of course, ink on paper is “writing” but so is an email, a text message, a Facebook post, a photo, a comic book. In law, writing simply means a semi-permanent record.

Signatures are not required

Unless, of course, they are in the specific circumstances.

Your examples

The plumber’s promise is both binding and unnecessary - the plumber is responsible for his own negligent acts and omissions even without such an agreement. On the other hand, if you promised not to hold him responsible, that promise would be binding.

The designer’s agreement to transfer copyright is binding even where such agreements must be in writing because it is in writing.

See What is a contract and what is required for them to be valid?

  • Furthermore, there are statutes and there is case law that treats an email or a text message as a signed writing, for purposes of the statute of frauds.
    – ohwilleke
    Aug 1, 2020 at 9:32

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.