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Session Intro – Track 2: Legal Certainty – PDF Association

Session Intro – Track 2: Legal Certainty

By Bernd Wild

1. October 2010


The archiving of information and documents takes up more and more space in the modern information society. On the one hand, the number of new documents, whether paper-based or already electronic, increases every year. On the other hand, legal and organisational regulations demand that these documents are maintained for many years or even many decades. It is not unusual for business documents relating to tax to be archived for 10 years, or over 30 years for documents in the health sector and up to over 90 years in the plant engineering or aircraft industries.

In addition to the length of time for the archiving, the scope of the information that is to be archived also changes. Where this was restricted several years ago to a relatively few documents that were seen as business-relevant in organisations, all communication between business partners and within an organisation is coming to the fore as a result of rules, e.g. SOX or the more generally formatted “Compliance”. This particularly affects the archiving of e-mails, which has come to represent a fundamental medium of business communication.

One of the main advantages of PDF/A is that it supports embedded electronic signatures. This means that for scanned documents, electronic invoices, forms and contracts you can have a legally binding signature that freezes their content reliably. The basic requirements for electronic signatures, and the supported standards, is presented by Andrea Valle in ”PDF/A and Digital Signatures“.

One of the success stories in using PDF/A and electronic signatures is clearly eInvoicing. While public authorities make requirements on authenticity, integrity and readability of invoice documents, they also request a stable and consistent electronic archiving of tax-relevant documents. This brings us to the presentation by Domenico Barile: “Electronic Invoices as PDF/A With Respect to Italian Legal Requirements”, which describes the possibilities and potential of electronically signed PDF/A invoices in the light of Italian tax legislation.

Since PDF/A was the first standardised document format for long-term archiving suitable for archiving different document types, and is also suitable for PDF, we must pay careful attention to several aspects regarding the conversion of PDF documents to PDF/A. This particularly concerns the handling of character sets that must be embedded in order to achieve a reproduction of a document according to the PDF/A standard that is true to the original. The presentation by François Fernandes: “Reproducibility of Archived Documents”, deals with the hazards that you must consider when converting PDF documents to PDF/A.

Although the conversion of PDF documents to PDF/A has been slowly developing into an established practice, the use of the ISO format during the archiving of e-mails is still in the early stages. Among other things, this is due to the fact that an e-mail often does not represent a homogenous document, but is more of a container for various file formats. The requirements that exist when archiving e-mails in PDF/A, and the relevant approaches, are the theme of the last presentation by Dr. Bernd Wild: “The Challenges in Archiving e-mails with PDF/A”.


Bernd Wild

Dr. Bernd Wild is originally a graduate physicist. After completing his studies, he worked for several years at a computer science research center in the field of artificial intelligence and its possi …

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