A couple of announcements regarding the international PDF/A standard that courts should know. - Updated with link to the ISO draft standard.
First, the USA Federal Courts have announced their transition of the PDF/A standard for document filing and they have provided a FAQ page on the subject at: http://www.pacer.gov/announcements/general/pdfa.html
Second, Thomas Zellman of the PDF Association (www.pdfa.org) recently announced the development of the PDF/A-3 standard that allows for both XML and the PDF representation to be contained in the same file (handy for court documents right?). He explains in more detail in an article from the PDF Association Newsletter reprinted below with his permission:
PDF/A-3 is the third part to the PDF/A standard for long-term archiving and will be published shortly by the ISO. It may even be available by the start of the DMS.
The ISO responded relatively quickly with PDF/A-3, primarily because there were many user requirements, especially from archives, that needed to be addressed.
From a technical standpoint, there is only one new feature with PDF/A-3, namely that any source format can be embedded in a PDF/A file. This “Container” concept expands the character of PDF/A as a guaranteed long-term archiving format. Normal PDF files have supported this feature for a long time, and with PDF/A-3 it will also now be allowed in the PDF/A format.
New areas of application will be opened up for PDF/A thanks to this possibility.
Today’s classic archives often apply a dual strategy whereby the source file, for example an Excel file, as well as a PDF/A file are saved. This requires however two separate objects to be archived. Archives therefore submitted a request that it would be much more eloquent if there were only one object to archive, containing both the original file as well as a long-term reliable PDF/A file. This exemplifies the container approach, and can be applied for cases like the Baden-Württemberg State Archive. The archive has stated that they will save the “bitstream” of the original file, for example Excel, in addition to a PDF/A file. They however do not provide any guarantee that the Excel in e.g. 50 years will still be legible, whereas with the PDF/A file an unambiguous reproduction of the file can always be guaranteed.
Personally my favorite example is the German registry of births, marriages and deaths, since every citizen has as a minimum a birth certificate. The legislators have stipulated that the master must be a digitally signed XML file, which is most likely to be machine-readable. It has long been best-practice in this field to additionally archive a PDF/A file as an unambiguous visual reproduction of the birth certificate. With PDF/A-3, both the digitally signed XML master as well as the PDF/A reproduction can be combined into one physical file.
Further possible areas of use include the embedding of XML and EDI files in invoices, and there are different initiatives underway to integrate this in PDF/A-3. And in the healthcare industry there is the CDA standard that can be used in medical reports.
Last but not least, PDF/A-3 is also suitable for email archiving. Within the scope of email management, many users today convert emails with their attachments to PDF/A in order to fulfill long-term archiving requirements. With PDF/A-3, the original formats of the attachments, e.g. MS-Office, OpenOffice or other formats can also be embedded in the archived email.
There are many additional possible uses, and the PDF Association is happy to provide more information, in addition to also being in the learning curve for PDF/A-3 themselves.
As mentioned above, PDF/A-3 will be published shortly and naturally there are not many software tools available today that already support PDF/A-3. However, some providers of PDF/A solutions will be presenting their first PDF/A-3 products at the DMS.
Anyone planning a medium-term project who wants to consider the strategic implementation of PDF/A can include PDF/A-3 in their planning and integrate it in their concept. And the members of the PDF Association are readily available to provide guidance as to which part of the PDF/A standard is best suited for your specific needs.
Update, October 18, 2012
The draft ISO standard is now available for download at this web page.