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Do legal documents that have been scanned & saved in the cloud have legal status as original documents?

David Casebere's Profile


Peter Lyons, MBA, CMA
Title: Finance and Technology Enthusiast
Company: Currently Looking
(Finance and Technology Enthusiast, Currently Looking) |

Good afternoon David,

The answer to your question in short is "no". It depends on the natue of the instrument, industry, and regulating authority.

I would consult your outside counsel for specifics on whether or not the instruments your clients are dealing with can be digitized or if they need to retain the original document.


Kent Mannis
Title: Managing Editor
Company: LawRoom
(Managing Editor, LawRoom) |

Peter Lyons is correct that the short answer to your question is "no"; however, the longer answer might begin: "maybe, depending if...."

Typically, the "best evidence" rule prohibits copies/scans to substitute for an original document (see for a helpful discussion).

However, more modern amendments may allow these copies when there's no dispute about them being an accurate reproduction. For example, California's "Secondary Evidence Rule" (Evidence Code 1521 at online) permits copies in California cases in many circumstances.

And, the federal I-9 immigration authorities permit electronic scans of paper forms; see LawRoom's 2005 story "I-9 Forms: Paper or Pixels?" at online. The federal rule (at online) says: "an employer can complete the paper Form I-9 and use a scanner to retain electronically."

So, you can't be confident that scans will always suffice -- but they might.


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