Sunday, August 10, 2008

Federal Court of Australia Document Management Protocol

The Federal Court of Australia is working on two Document Management Protocols as part of its Document Management, Discovery and the use of Technology in the conduct of Litigation" practice note. The new guidelines were due to come into effect 1 July 2008, but appears to have been delayed for more consultation. So I thought I would give this to my EDM students at ANU to think about as a systems development problem and perhaps help the court.

Here is the draft tutorial question:

The Federal Court of Australia is working out how lawyers can exchange information about some of the large number of electronic documents now used in court cases (called "e-Discovery"). But being lawyers, they have used a lot of words to describe what is an information processing system. This will make for a lot of work for the people who have to implement it and leave room for incompatibility between systems used by different law firms.

Don't try and read it in detail, but quickly look at: "Advanced Document Management Protocol (Example)", Federal Court of Australia, Revision 0.18, 30 June 2008:

  1. What are some of the problems with the metadata and document format specifications of this system?
  2. How would you improve the speculation?
  3. What standards would you suggest the court specify for particular metadata elements and document formats? Give some examples.

If you don't know where to start, look though some of the standards mentioned in the lecture notes.

Some of what I found along the way:

The "Practice Note" gives a general introduction to what the system should do. There is a , there is a checklist for the lawyers to the case to use and a glossary of terms. There are then two protocols defined: Default Document Management Protocol (DDMP) and Advanced Document Management Protocol (ADMP). The advanced protocol is intended for where there are more than 5000 Documents expected.

Comparison of the Default and Advanced Document Management Protocols

Curiously the advanced protocol document is only six pages longer than the default (19 versus 13 pages). Given that much of the information is the same between the two systems, it would be much easier if the advanced description only contained the additions and differences from the default. As it is it is necessary to make a careful comparison of the two documents to see what is different.

The documents use English text to describe the protocols. As a result they cannot be directly implemented by a computer system. English descriptions of the metadata are used. This makes for an imprecise and long document. It would be useful if a specification could be implemented in XML Schema. There are no references to formal standards. As an example PDF is specified, but no particular version of PDF (it might be preferable to use the Archive ISO standard version in this application). The court might choose to use the Dublin Core and other metadata standards recommended by the National Archives of Australia.

The default protocol uses a comma-separated values (“CSV”) format spreadsheet for providing the list of documents. The advanced protocol uses a Microsoft Access Database with four tables.

The spreadsheet columns required for Document Descriptions is as follows:
(a) Document ID;
(b) Document Title;
(c) Document Type;
(d) Document Date;
(e) Author;
(f) Recipient;
(g) Host Document ID; and
(h) Folder and Filename.
Table NameTable Description
ExportMain Document information
PartiesPeople and organisation information for each Document
PagesListing of electronic image filenames for each Document
Export_ExtrasAdditional data fields for each Document

Export Table
FieldData TypeExplanation – Document Types and Coding Method and possible values
Document_IDText, 255Document ID in accordance with Schedule 1.
Text, 255...
Document_DateDate, 11DD-MMM-YYYY

One point to note from this is that dates are not specified in ISO date format.

Now I wonder what the students will make of it. ;-)

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