For this question, let's assume the contract is for common goods and services.

First hypothetical scenario: I meet a plumber on an online marketplace, like Facebook or Craigslist, and he writes that he will fix a problem in my bathroom. He guarantees that he will pay for any unexpected damages that might happen during the repairs.

Second hypothetical scenario: I hire a local graphic designer to create a logo for my new business. In an email, the designer agrees to transfer all copyright claims to the work once they have been paid. This agreement is made through email, not a signed written agreement.

Are the promises made in either of these cases 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
    Commented Aug 1, 2020 at 9:32

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