Digital Document Requirements

The information was derived from the Canada Standards document titled Digital Images as Documentary Evidence.  These are the requirements that must be met to store all of your documents in digital format.  These requirements were published in 1997 and there were no specific rules for electronic images, they simply reworded the passages that related to microfilm at the time.  Before starting any electronic image management program, consult with a lawyer.

Electronic Images As Source Documents

Fundamentals of an electronic image management program

  1. Written authority from senior management to establish the image management program.
  2. The program’s integration into the usual and ordinary course of business of the organization.
  3. The written authority for the regular disposal of source records a reasonable period of time after the image capture process.
  4. The establishment and documentation of the program’s systems and procedures.
  5. Provision for quality assurance.
  6. Provision for appropriate storage and preservation of storage medium considering its desired retention period.
  7. The program’s conformity to all applicable micrographics and electronic image standards as set out in the American National Standards Institute document MS44 Recommended Practice for the Quality Control of Image Scanners.

Establishing the Electronic Image Management (EIM) Program


The establishment of an EIM program will be authorized in writing as a policy of the business or corporation by an officer of the company with authority to set policy.  The authorization will confirm that the EIM program will form a part of the usual and ordinary course of business.  The appropriate signing officer or authority shall:

  1. authorize establishment of the program.
  2. authorize the records or types of records to be captured.
  3. authorize the records or types of records to be retained.
  4. authorize the disposal of source records and
  5. authorize the method of recording and certifying that the activities are in fact carried out as required.


A person, directly named or uniquely identified, shall be designated in writing, by senior management, to be responsible for the EIM program.  The assigned authority shall be clearly defined.

Service Bureau

If the organization uses an external service or other outsourcing company to manage the EIM program in whole or in part, that service bureau must conform to the standards and will be held accountable to the organization for adherence to the standards.

Changes in the Program

All changes and revision in the program shall be authorized by management before implementation.

Procedures Manual

The procedures manual is required by government standards to be written by each organization to describe its EIM program.  The procedures manual shall outline the following:

  1. Types of records to be stored
  2. Procedures for capture
  3. Procedures for indexing
  4. Procedures for quality control
  5. Procedures for retrieval of source record or document
  6. Procedures for  certification and registration
  7. Procedures for disposal of source records
  8. Procedures for storage on secure storage
  9. Procedures for ensuring the integrity and security of the image and its index
  10. Procedures for storage of removable media
  11. Procedures for backup and recovery
  12. Procedures for disposal of records from the image management system.

Also, the procedures manual should also state that the following document handling procedures should be in place:

  1. Source records must be available for retake until images on transitional storage are quality assured.
  2. Source documents will not be destroyed until after the quality assured images are accurately and completely transferred from transitional storage to secure storage.

Revisions to the Manual

Changes to the systems and procedures must be documented in this manual by the appropriate authority.  The manual must be kept up to date as it is the organization’s most persuasive evidence of its usual and ordinary course of business.  It must be written before litigation occurs.  A manual entry written after the EIM program is challenged may destroy the credibility of the program especially if it’s demonstrated the entry is contrived evidence.

Electronic Image Control Objectives

The EIM program should be designed so that basic control objectives are met.  Control objectives describe what the EIM program must accomplish while control techniques describe how to accomplish those goals.

Completeness of Capture to Transitional Storage

All documents authorized for capture in the program must be captured and copied to transitional storage.  Basic requirements to meet this objective are as follows:

  1. Proof that all source documents were captured.
  2. Establishment of procedures for retakes or correction of rejected images.
  3. Documentation of the date and location/terminal of capture and subsequent corrections.

Accuracy of Capture to Transitional Storage

Images captured to storage must be captured accurately in a way that does not compromise its status as a facsimile.  The entire document must captured accurately and reliably.

Authorization of Capture to Transitional Storage

All images captured must be authorized for capture by the EIM program.

Maintenance of Images in Transitional Storage

There must be adequate provisions for the maintenance, preservation and confidentiality of the images.  The provisions should be described in the procedures manual.  Control techniques will ensure that the images are not subject to unauthorized alterations.

Completeness of Conversion of Images to Secure Storage

All images captured must be converted to secure storage.  If the initial capture is to transitional storage, then the move to secure storage must occur within a reasonable time frame.

Accuracy of Conversion of Images to Secure Storage

The conversion from transitional storage to secure storage must ensure that the image recorded in secure storage comprises the whole of the original document in a way that does not compromise its status as a facsimile.

Authorization for Conversion of Images to Secure Storage

The following are the requirements for achieving authorization of conversion:

  1. Only images captured within the authorized image management system shall be converted to secure storage.
  2. The time for conversion must not be excessive, given the task to be performed.
  3. The time for conversion must also be commensurate with the need for quality control.
  4. Disposal of source records shall not occur until conversion to secure storage has taken place.

Maintenance of Images Converted to Secure Storage

Control procedures need to ensure that captured images will not be lost or damaged through error or omission during the retention period.  Basic protections for images include protection against:

  1. disasters,
  2. mischief,
  3. accidental erasure, and
  4. annotation or replacement which is not authorized.

Completeness of Bibliographic and Biographic Information

All bibliographic and biographic information required by the EIM program must be captured completely.

Specifically, bibliographic information created for the purpose of locating a particular image should be consistent and include any of the following:

  1. Subject matter of the image
  2. Description of the image
  3. Classification number
  4. Location of the image
  5. Any information concerning changes to the index
  6. Cross-referencing information about the image record.

Biographic information for locating and retrieving an image must contain the following to be complete:

  1. Exact date of capture
  2. Capture device location or identification
  3. Any details of modifications that took place
  4. Cross-referencing information.

Accuracy of Bibliographic and Biographic Information

All information captured must be accurate for the purposes of locating and retrieving a specific image and to reflect historical data about those images.

Authorization of Bibliographic and Biographic Information

Only authorized information will be captured in the EIM system.  Authorization is to be obtained in accordance with the procedures manual.

Maintenance of Bibliographic and Biographic Information

Control procedures need to ensure that bibliographic and biographic information will not be lost or damaged through error or omission during the retention period.  Basic protections for bibliographic and biographic information include protection against:

  1. disasters,
  2. mischief,
  3. accidental erasure, and
  4. annotation or replacement which is not authorized.

Evidentiary Requirements for Electronic Images

The EIM program must satisfy basic control objectives as described above as well as evidentiary control objectives.  Evidentiary control objectives ensure that the basic control objectives are met.

At the time these standards were drafted (1997) specific rules applying to electronic documents had not yet been drafted into Canadian law.  That has likely changed since.  To ensure that you are meeting the current requirements for using an electronic document as evidence, consult with a lawyer.

Audit Trails

The EIM program needs to operate in a way that the application of supervisory control techniques can be easily proven.  Biographic data regarding the system operation must be part of the EIM program.  If such information is not automatically generated, then operator certificates must be used and stored (a record that confirms the capture of a source document into the EIM system).

All authorization functions must be traceable through bibliographic and biographic information to specific individuals and equipment operating as prescribed in the image management program.

Supervisory Control Objectives

The control techniques used to satisfy the control objectives will be subject to additional supervisory control techniques to ensure their continued operation.  Basic supervisory control techniques include:

  1. the appointment of an officer responsible for the integrity of the image management system, and
  2. the systematic supervision from image capture to disposition and storage.

Certificate of Disposal of Source Records

When images are used as source documents, various Evidence Acts or other rules of law may require proof of the disposal and replacement of source documents.  This would be done in the form of a affidavit or sworn declaration.  Seek legal counsel to determine the current requirements.

There may be requirements to retain the original source documents for a period of time after being captured to an image.  Even if no requirements have been written for image based documents, such requirements may be imposed using the evidence act for microfilm documents due to the vagueness and breadth of language contained in that act. 

© Rigel Chiokis 2012 - 2017