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PDF/A-Whaaaat? Preparing for the Mandatory Change in Electronic Case Filing

Last year, the federal judiciary announced that it was planning to "change the technical standard for filing documents in the Case Management and Electronic Case Filing (CM/ECF) system from PDF to PDF/A." At the time, no target date for the change was provided, but it appears that the change may be coming soon in some jurisdictions.

Each federal court is responsible for setting its own deadline for requiring documents to be filed in the PDF/A format. In the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, for example, the court will start posting documents in PDF/A format beginning June 1, 2011, and all court ECF filings uploaded on or after Jan. 1, 2012, must be in PDF/A format.

For those of you reading this and thinking, "PDF/A-whaaat!?," here is a primer, courtesy of the PIT IP Tech Blog. In short, PDF/A is

an International Standards Organization (ISO) approved version of the popular Adobe PDF format designed for archival purposes. It is a self-contained file, which means that it does not rely on external media players or hyperlinks outside of the documents. In addition, it embeds all of the fonts used in the document inside the file, so the recipient need not have any of the fonts installed on his or her computer. It also prevents security measures of any kind (such as passwords).

By moving to the PDF/A format, PIT IP Tech Blog adds, "electronically-filed documents will be more accessible in the future and less dependent on technologies or features that may become unsupported." Other key points to note about the new format include the fact that using it will make file sizes larger, and that hyperlinking to webpages or judicial decisions will not be possible "because the file must be self-contained."

In an update on the topic this week, PIT IP Tech Blog writes that there are several resouces on the web that can help lawyers with the transition to the PDF/A format, including (a) this tutorial and webcast on the Adobe Acrobat for Legal Professionals website, and (b) the federal judiciary's FAQ regarding the PDF/A change.

Posted by Bruce Carton on May 11, 2011 at 02:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)


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