Let us start with a simple proposition: Not all production requests or productions are created equal. There are good ones, and there are bad ones, and we all know when we’ve been on the receiving end of a bad one. Here is what is generally accepted as far as production formats are concerned.
Most productions take one of three forms: TIFF/text, searchable PDFs, or native form productions. There are advantages and disadvantages of each one of these formats.
What is a TIFF/Text Production Format?
All documents are converted from native files to black and white, single-page, Group 4 TIFFs. Separate, document-level text files are also provided for each record. Lastly, an image (opt) and a metadata (dat) load file is provided, which includes information for every record for which said information was available.
TIFF/Text productions generally cost more since most vendors charge to convert a native file into static images. They are also prone to error because not everything converts correctly to image format, and outside counsel is often pulling and inserting documents until the very last minute, which can create numbering issues.
Documents with redactions must be re-OCR’d (Optical Character Recognition) no matter what type of production you are providing; if you fail to re-OCR the redacted images, you will, in fact, be producing the text that you redacted out of the image as part of the extracted text from the file.
What is a Text/Searchable PDF Production Format?
Essentially, a Text/Searchable PDF is the same as a TIFF/Text format, but instead of simply exporting the converted images, those images are converted to document-level PDFs on export, and then OCR’d to incorporate searchability.
The opposing party may request Text/Searchable PDF productions, when they do not have access to a review platform. They can open up each PDF, run a text-search in it, review it and move on. The biggest disadvantage is that most processing tools do not provide the ability to incorporate text into the PDF as it is being created from the images. You then have no choice, but to use the system to re-OCR the PDFs to make them searchable on the back end.
OCR is never as good as extracted text because it is less accurate; the OCR engine will always make a mistake somewhere, so it is therefore less desirable than using the extracted text from a native file.
What is a Native File Production Format?
The native file, renamed for its bates number, and often including a confidentiality designation, is provided. Separate document-level text files are also provided, as well as a metatdata load file.
The biggest fear that counsel has to grapple with when it comes to Native File productions is that they may be missing something in the metadata or the hidden text that could be used against them if the other side discovers it. Hidden text encompasses the likes of track changes and speaker notes, which are often ripe with the thoughts of the document creator. It is important to review this information before you produce the file because it will undoubtedly be contained in both the native file and the extracted text from that file. The review team should examine these files in native form (an option in most robust review platforms) so that they can see this information and be confident when the production rolls around.
It is key to keep all of this in mind when you are negotiating with the other side for form of production. Obviously, some forms of production are more cost-efficient, but carry a slightly higher risk of exposure.