Friday, October 23, 2009

NJ Federal Court Issues Notice about Redaction of Private Information from Court Filings

I received this notice today from the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, and thought it worthwhile to post in its entirety:
It has come to our attention that electronic filers may be using inappropriate procedures or software to redact documents. We encourage all electronic filers to review their software guides and/or check with your systems' staff regarding this issue. The redaction techniques below can also be found on the court's web site at

Effective Personal-Identity and Metadata Redaction Techniques for E-Filing

When you e-file a PDF document, you may be providing more information in that document than you can see via your PDF reader software. Some redaction techniques used when e-filing are ineffective, in that the text intended to be hidden or deleted can be read via a variety of techniques. And, because information about the document, called "metadata", is also stored inside the document, it is often viewable as well. Examples of metadata and hidden data include the name and type of file, the name of the author, the location of the file on your file server, the full-sized version of a cropped picture, and prior revisions of the text.

E-filers must use extra care to make sure that the PDF documents to be submitted to ECF are fully and completely free of any hidden data which may contain redacted information. The protection of sensitive data can be compromised if improper redaction techniques are used. Here are a couple of examples of sensitive-data visibility issues:

* Highlighting text in black or using a black box over the data in MS Word or Adobe Acrobat will not protect the data from being able to be seen. Changing the text color to white so it disappears against the white screen/paper is similarly ineffective.

* Previous revisions and deleted text may be able to be seen by manipulating an Adobe Acrobat file.

Fortunately, there are effective means of eliminating this metadata from electronic documents. Probably the simplest method is to omit the information from the original document and save the redacted version with a new name, for example, "REDACTED", then convert to PDF.

While the court does not endorse any specific method, and the responsibility for redacting personal identifiers rests solely with the parties, commercially-available software can be used to redact, not just hide, the sensitive information. Redax ( and RapidRedact ( are two examples of commercial products used by some. Adobe Acrobat 8.0 Professional and above and WordPerfect XIV both contain redaction tools. Search the web for references that may be useful to you.
While this notice clearly applies to cases filed in the federal court of New Jersey, electronic court filing is also available in the federal court in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, Allentown), which has a local rule requiring that certain personal information of the parties be removed from public filings. E.D. Pa. Local Rule of Civil Procedure 5.1.3 ("Modification or Redaction of Personal Identifiers: As documents in civil cases may be made available for personal inspection in the office of the clerk of court at the United States Courthouse, or, if filed electronically, may be made available on the court’s Electronic Case Filing system, such personal identifiers as Social Security numbers, dates of birth, financial account numbers and names of minor children should be modified or partially redacted in all documents filed either in traditional paper form or electronically.").

UPDATE: This notice is also available on the Court’s web site. See Personal-Identity and Metadata Redaction Notice, October 23, 2009.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Final Fairness Hearing on Google Books Settlement Re-Scheduled for November 9

On October 7, 2009, as scheduled, Judge Denny Chin held a status conference among the parties to the Authors’ Guild et al. v. Google, Inc. lawsuit to consider the settlement agreement reached between the parties. Jessica E. Vascellaro, “Google Gets Until Nov. 9 to Revise Book Pact,” The Wall Street Journal, Oct. 8, 2009. During this status conference, the Court set November 9, 2009 as the new date for the Final Fairness Hearing. Id.

As described in prior posts on this topic, October 7 had been the anticipated Final Fairness Hearing to consider the settlement agreement, but due to the overwhelming number of filings (both in opposition and in support of the settlement agreement), and particularly the Statement of Interest filed by the Department of Justice in which the DOJ raised several preliminary concerns on antitrust grounds to the settlement. In that brief, the DOJ made “suggestions” about changes that needed to be made to the settlement agreement in order to account for potential antitrust concerns.

As further reported previously, Plaintiffs requested a continuance (uncontested by Google) of the October 7 Hearing to permit negotiations among the parties and the DOJ to make sure that these concerns had been addressed. See Motion and Memorandum of Law in Support. While the Court granted the request for a continuance, he required the parties to attend a status conference instead. See Court’s September 24, 2009 Order.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

White House appoints IP Enforcement Coordinator

On September 25, 2009, President Obama appointed Victoria A. Espinel as IP Enforcement Coordinator (“IPEC”). This position was mandated by the Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property Act of 2008 (“PRO-IP Act”) S. 3325, Public Law No. 110-403, signed into law by President George W. Bush on October 13, 2008. See Current Status of the House Bill and of the Senate Bill.

The Act governs enforcement of IP infringement matters, particularly counterfeiting of copyrighted works and trademarks. With respect to trademarks, the Act increases civil penalties for trademark counterfeiting, including for direct as well as for certain types of contributory infringement and enhances criminal penalties for trafficking in counterfeit goods bearing others’ trademarks.

The IPEC is a cabinet-level position in the Executive Office focused on combating counterfeiting and IP infringement.

Under the Act, the IPEC will be an advisor only, not a prosecutor or other law enforcement officer. Specifically, the IPEC is charged with chairing an “interagency intellectual property enforcement advisory committee”, coordinating a Joint Strategic Plan (defined with more specificity in the Act) against counterfeiting and infringement, assist (when requested) in the implementation of the Plan, facilitate the issuance of policy guidance on “basic issues of policy and interpretation, to the extent necessary to assure the coordination of intellectual property enforcement policy and consistency with other law,” report to the President and to Congress about IP enforcement programs, report to Congress about the implementation of the Plan, and “carry out such other functions as the President may direct.” Public Law No. 110-403 § 301(b)(1).

Note that the Act was signed into law nearly a year ago. Under the precise terms of the PRO-IP Act, the Joint Strategic Plan described in the Act was due to be completed and submitted to various House and Senate committees no later than October 13, 2009 – in other words, two days ago!

However, given that the appointment has just been made for the IPEC, the various deadlines set forth in the act must be modified in some manner. It will be interesting to see how much the deadlines change.

For more information, see the following:

* White House Press Release, “President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts,” September 25, 2009. The press release describes Ms. Espinel’s background and qualifications for the position.

* Official Summary of the Senate version of the bill (which ultimately was signed by Pres. Bush in 2008)

* Wikipedia’s description of the PRO-IP Act

* “FAQ: What to expect from a new IP cabinet position,” CNET News, Sept. 30, 2008 (just before the Act was signed into law).

Ms. Espinel’s nomination was received in the Senate on September 29, and the matter has been referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary. Nomination PN1027-111. It does not appear that a confirmation hearing has yet been scheduled.