Critically Endangered small

Digital materials presented in court as evidence or documents such as rulings and proceedings generated through legal proceedings

Group: Digital Legal Records

Trend in 2021:

Consensus Decision

Added to List: 2017

increased riskTrend towards greater risk

Previous classification: Endangered


Trend in 2022:


No change No Change


Imminence of Action

Action is recommended within twelve months, detailed assessment is a priority.

Significance of Loss

The loss of tools, data or services within this group would impact on people and sectors around the world.

Effort to Preserve

It would require a major effort to address losses in this group, possibly requiring the development of new preservation tools or techniques.


Evidence submitted to courts of all kinds including text messages, photography, CCTV, email, 3d and 2d scanning, scientific reports and analyses, documents and websites;

‘Practically Extinct’ in the Presence of Aggravating Conditions

Loss of context; loss of integrity; external dependencies; poor storage; lack of understanding; churn of staff; significant or diversity of data; poorly developed specifications; ill-informed records management; poorly developed transfer protocols; poorly developed migration or normalization; longstanding protocols or procedures that apply unsuitable paper processes to digital materials.

‘Endangered’ in the Presence of Good Practice

Well managed data infrastructure; preservation enabled at ingest; carefully managed authenticity; use of persistent identifiers; finding aids; well managed records management processes; recognition of preservation requirements at highest levels; strategic investment in digital preservation; preservation roadmap; participation in digital preservation community.

2021 Jury Review

This entry is a subset of an entry made in 2019 titled ‘Proceedings and Evidence in Court,’ which was itself created as a subset of entry in 2017 for ‘Digital Legal Records and Evidence,’ The 2021 Jury split ‘Proceedings and Evidence in Court’ into two more discrete entries to highlight their distinct preservation challenges and risk profiles. This entry includes evidence that has been presented as evidence in court. It was given a Critically Endangered classification to highlight its higher risk profile and additionally emphasize that courts are not limited in the types of evidence that they can admit but that they have a responsibility to provide robust preservation that ensures the authenticity of their records and evidence.

Additional Comments

Standard Records Management processes within designated agencies should be able to take care of the preservation of materials like this, but given that evidence is likely to involve complex types of data, such agencies may not be equipped to deliver preservation effectively. It is surprising that courts are not more obvious in the digital preservation community, where solutions now exist.

More concrete examples would be welcome. It is the evidentiary value of submissions to court that may be lost, and therefore veracity of the decision could be questioned. Evidence submitted in digital form is of greater risk (e.g., a video file submitted on a CD in the 90s) than records of the proceedings themselves (e.g., transcripts).

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