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June 2002
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Imaging Technology

TIFF Imaging Fundamentals

By Dave Cochran

TIFF Imaging Fundamentals THE PROCESS OF Tagged Image File Format (TIFF) imaging rapidly is becoming a standard practice in the legal industry. Unfortunately, many lawyers lack even a basic understanding of TIFF imaging, which can leave them feeling overwhelmed by the technology and hesitant to take the plunge.

To be fair, TIFF imaging can be complex ­ but a little planning and knowledge at the outset can make it a smooth, efficient and cost-effective process. For starters, knowledge of what imaging can and cannot do is paramount. A TIFF image is simply "a digital photograph of a document."

It's important to know that the primary benefits of TIFF imaging include immediate access to documents, the elimination of misfilings, and the reduction of storage, copy and file maintenance costs. If you have a clear picture of what to expect ­ and what not to expect ­ you'll be more likely to gain new efficiencies without the frustration of unattained goals.


Next, many lawyers need to be reassured that TIFF images are admissible in court. The Federal Rules of Evidence, Article X (Contents of Writings, Recordings and Photographs), Rule 101(1) defines writings and recordings to include magnetic, mechanical or electronic recordings. Rule 101(3) states that if data are stored in a computer or similar device, any printout or other output readable by sight, shown to reflect the data accurately, is an "original." Moreover, an image cannot be altered. Once a TIFF image is scanned, it cannot be changed.


Another common concern is cost. How expensive is imaging?

Imaging is expensive comparable to photocopying, but once the document is imaged, you can print it less expensively than making a second set of copies. And the storage costs are significantly less. Consider 10,000 pieces of paper on one CD-ROM, compared to those same pages stored in four boxes.

Once your firm has decided to embrace TIFF imaging ­ or even if your firm has been using it for years -- it may help to ask yourselves a series of fundamental questions in order to better evaluate what imaging can do for you.

Here are 10 questions to ask:

1. How are documents currently reproduced in your firm?

2. Has an imaging system been used before? If so, what were the shortcomings of the system?

3. Has an outside imaging supplier ever been used?

4. How would your firm benefit from an imaging system? (e.g., efficient retrieval; storage; access; other)?

5. Which of the following types of applications have you considered for imaging:

* Archive box database?

* Record of electronic documents?

* File folder inventory?

* Production?

* Key client documents?

* Third-party documents?

* Transcripts from related cases?

* Production requests, interrogatories and responses (pleadings)?

* Expert witness research: scientific, engineering, medical online databases?

* Billing/invoicing database?

6. What types of data will be need to be indexed from each document to be searchable on a database?

7. Where are most of your documents located (e.g., off-site, internal, filing cabinets, boxes, shelving units, microfilm/microfiche, etc.)?

8. What is the estimated volume of paper to be imaged?

9. Who are the ultimate users of the system?

10. Is there I.T. support to assist with set-up, management and training of your imaging system?

Glossary of Basic Terms

Imaging: The process of capturing, storing, and retrieving information using optical technology.

Database: The automated method of collecting, organizing, and manipulating information.

TIFF Imaging Fundamentals Data Capture: The ability to capture limited coding data during the scanning process, such as document type, physical boundaries, characteristics, etc.

TIFF: Tagged Image File Format. A standard image storage format.

O.C.R.: Optical Character Recognition. The process in which a document is converted to full text through pattern matching and analysis.

MediaStorage for images. Typically includes CD-ROM, tapes and magnetic.

CD-ROM: A compact disk, which can store between 10,000 and 15,000 images depending upon the image density.

D.P.I.: Dots Per Inch. The standard image density or resolution measurement. For imaging, 300 DPI is considered a standard density because it allows for quality OCR processing.

Compression: A process of reducing the size of the image file by removing unused white space from an image. Compression is typically advantageous for Internet repositories and transmitting images.

Don't Be Afraid

So whether you have just toe'd the imaging water or stayed out of the pool altogether, there is no reason to be afraid. Come on in, the water is fine and there are plenty of lifeguards on hand to help you swim! There are too many professional efficiencies and cost savings at stake to miss out on this powerful technology.

Dave Cochran is vice president of Merrill Corp.'s document management services business unit, and is based in Cleveland.

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