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The eDiscovery Paradigm Shift

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Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Metadata in the New eDiscovery Paradigm

As part of the 2006 amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRPC), Rule 34 now provides that electronically stored information (ESI) can be produced (absent agreement or a court order) in either the form in which it was ordinarily maintained or in a "reasonably useable" form.

However, neither the rule nor the FRCP's "Advisory Committee Comments" address the circumstances under which metadata or embedded data must be produced in a particular case. Providing more guidance, Sedona Principle 12 initially provided a presumption that "[u]nless it is material to resolving the dispute, there is no obligation to preserve and produce metadata absent agreement of the parties or order of the court." After considerable discussion, Sedona Principle 12 was revised to provide a more nuanced view of the need for metadata. It now provides that the form of production should take into account "the need to produce reasonably accessible metadata that will enable the receiving party to have the same ability to access, search, and display the information as the producing party where appropriate or necessary in light of the nature of the information and the needs of the case."

The comments to Principle 12 explain the advantages and disadvantages of particular forms of production with relationship to the impact of the choices on metadata. Taking all of this into account under the assumption of quickly evolving database, application and associated intelligent ORT technology, I predict that metadata is going to evolve in its importance to the understanding of the underlying native data.

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