Recommended practices, technical reports, and industry specifications to support interoperability, interchangeability, and the global enterprise for information professionals

AIIM TR31-2004, Legal Acceptance of Records Produced by Information Technology Systems

This report is a 2004 composite of material published in 1992-1994 as ANSI/AIIM TR31-1992, ANSI/AIIM TR31-1993, and ANSI/AIIM TR31-1994 (Part III). Those reports dealt with the admissibility in USA federal and state courts of printouts of document and data records that are stored digitally. 

The reports gave performance guidelines and a self-assessment checklist to help ensure the admissibility and trustworthiness of the printouts. In combining the material the portions dealing with problems in state laws at that time and advocating changes to the laws were dropped, while the portions dealing with fundamental legal principles and expectations were consolidated. The three-part organization was retained. Part I gives an overview of evidence law. Part II presents a performance guideline for the legal acceptance of records produced by IT systems. Part III offers a self-assessment for accomplishment of the performance guideline. Although the report is oriented heavily towards information recorded initially on paper and then entered into an IT system, much of the material applies also to system environments that are entirely digital.

Admissibility into evidence of records produced by information technology systems employing media such as microfilm, magnetic tape, or magnetic disk (and, by implication optical disk) has been addressed at the federal level by statutory laws and by special rules prescribed by the Supreme Court that accommodate such records. Of particular note are the Federal Rules of Evidence . The Uniform Rules of Evidence  are the state counterpart, although states do not always adopt the uniform rules without change, and some states have evidence rules different from either the federal or uniform rules.

Reported decisions indicate that the courts are quite lenient in interpreting these laws and rules as applicable to records produced by information technology systems (analog or digital). However, problems arise if appropriate procedures are not followed in creating and maintaining such records, making it difficult to lay a proper foundation for admissibility. The court must be convinced that the process or system used is trustworthy in producing accurate records, i.e., the records reflect the source data used to create them. (Whether the source data are correct is a separate matter.)

Each state has adopted laws or rules related to records as evidence. Most have either adopted the Uniform Photographic Copies of Business and Public Records As Evidence Act  or the Uniform Rules of Evidence  (which are similar to the Federal Rules of Evidence ). Although the wording between these two uniform laws varies, they exhibit similar phraseology and purpose.

State and federal legislative bodies enact statutes that establish the law in specified areas. Statutes often authorize government regulatory agencies to promulgate detailed rules and regulations to implement the statutes. Together, the statutes and regulations constitute laws that affect the public.

Disputes arising from these laws are decided by the courts. The courts will interpret the laws in terms of the issues raised in the dispute and, sometimes, determine the laws to be unenforceable (e.g., void for vagueness) or unconstitutional.

This guideline addresses laws that affect personal or business recordkeeping practices. In particular, it addresses laws containing record-keeping provisions that require records to be kept available for government audit, require records to be submitted to the government, or establish the form of records.

Laws often require that organizations submit information to a government agency, maintain records to confirm compliance or, otherwise, assist government agencies to fulfill their regulatory responsibilities. Organizations that fail to comply with these laws are subject to fines, penalties, and loss of rights.

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