Digital documents are increasingly replacing traditional paper documents. Existing paper documents are being scanned and digitised, while digital-only processes are becoming more and more common – and PDF/A is at the very forefront of this trend.
PDF/A also plays a significant role in legislation and justice in many countries. Legal bills and court records usually have to be stored for exceptionally long periods of time. The ability to search text and XMP metadata in PDF/A files can make it much quicker and easier to find and allocate digital records.
Federal jurisdiction in the United States courts
To see the huge significance of PDF/A in the legal field, you need only look at the Administrative Office of the United States Courts, which is taking a leading role in standardising PDF/A. Work has been ongoing since 2002 with the American associations AIIM (Association for Information and Image Management) and NPES (the National Printing Equipment Association) to develop the standard for archived documents. The goal was to turn large quantities of paper-based documents into a reliable, future-proof digital format with no expensive specialist viewing software required.
The Italian Chamber of Commerce
Since 2010, Italian businesses have been required to send reports to the appropriate commercial register in PDF/A format. This includes balances, certificates and reports of business transactions, acquisitions, mergers and insolvencies. A data transfer platform is used for input; software is used to convert text or existing PDF documents to PDF/A-format certificates. The CGN, a specialist network for the financial, legal, fiscal and labour sectors, was closely involved in establishing the platform.
The “Bundeskammer der Architekten und Ingenieurkonsulenten” in Austria, the Federal Chamber of Architects and Consulting Engineers, requires publicly available digital certificates to conform to the PDF/A-1b standard. This guarantees the authenticity of all digital documents accepted into the title register, thanks to a qualified digital signature.
Germany: Land registration
The “Decree of the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Justice for the introduction of digital legal procedures and digital records of land registration procedures” (ERGA-VO) requires that all digital data (ASCII, Unicode, RTF, PDF, TIFF, Word) submitted must be convertible to PDF/A. This decree has been in force since March 2012.