In a nutshell, the answer is Yes, an email agreement CAN be legally
binding. However, whether the actual agreement in question IS legally
binding depends on a great many factors.
First off, let me bring your attention to the disclaimer at the page
bottom...Google Answers is no substitute for professional legal
advice, so make sure to take everything said here with the appropriate
grains of salt.
That said, binding agreements are made in cyberspace all the time, and
they have a well-recognized status in many jurisdictions as legitimate
contracts. When you click on an "I agree" button before downloading a
file, or signing onto a website, you are essentially entering into a
formal agreement with another party. Such agreements can also be
entered into via email.
Even though the internet and electronic communication is fairly new,
the notion of what makes for a binding agreement -- a contract, in
other words -- is well established. A good overview of the general
legal understanding can be found in this Wikipedia entry:
Note that even though the specifics can differ from one jurisdiction
to the next, the general principles remain the same -- if two parties
enter into an agreement with their eyes wide open, and if the
agreement is not egregiously unfair, and if both parties are competent
and both parties have signified their understanding and acceptance of
the terms -- then a legal agreement can be said to exist.
Ordinarily, such agreements have often been committed to paper, and
signed by the respective parties. Oral agreements are also recognized
as legitimate in many (though not all) jurisdictions. Electronic
agreements can also be held as legitimate, even if they do not contain
an original ink-signature as would a paper contract.
Of course, if one of the parties disputes the content of an email by
claiming to never have sent it, or that the language of an email
agreement has been tampered with, then the validity of the agreement
is called into question, and the matter would have to be resolved by
A pretty good overview of contracts in the internet age can be found here:
Although the author's focus is on on contract law in Italy, the
general principles can be broadly applied.
I trust this information fully answers your question. If there's
anything else I can do for you, though, please don't hesitate to ask.
Just post a Request for Clarification, and I'm at your service.
All the best,
search strategy -- Google searches on combinations of terms: