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Legal Document Web Delivery

Posted on 2013-05-14
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Last Modified: 2013-05-19
What is the best way to populate and deliver legal documents over the web (both legally and technically)? Fillable PDFs are great for making sure that the original legal document is always reproduced the same way, but there are lots of browser and acrobat settings and security settings that cause problems when the general public is trying to access them. Any better way that would still guarantee that the document will be the same everywhere?

TIA
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Question by:machine_run
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by:Dave Baldwin
ID: 39165854
If you're concerned about people altering the document, you should realize that any and all files can be altered.  There is no way that you could guarantee that the document will be the same everywhere.  I have fairly simple tools that I can use to edit any file.

If you use encryption and password protect the files you are more likely to deliver the original copy.  I don't know if Acrobat has anything to detect alterations.  My tax preparer has sent me password protected PDFs and sent the password in a separate email.  You can also ZIP up the file with a password to open it which makes it one step more difficult to alter.
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machine_run earned 0 total points
ID: 39165950
I'm not so concerned about the transport of documents or what happens to them once they are retrieved. What I'd like to avoid is any change to the layout or content of a document representation that would be caused by CSS or other web formatting schemes or browsers, as opposed to having a static PDF of the document that can have it's fields populated dynamically.

The programmers would like to have a web-based system that would work almost everywhere instead of being locked into requiring the recipient to have a certain browser that will allow PDF population and up-to-date Adobe Acrobat reader installed and permissions set to allow dynamic PDF content on the recipient's PC.

(Probably no way around it)
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by:Dave Baldwin
Dave Baldwin earned 250 total points
ID: 39166057
CSS and browsers do not affect the formatting of PDFs.  However, the built-in PDF viewers in Firefox and Chrome are not exactly the same as Adobe Reader and are causing a little confusion.  Last time I checked, the Firefox viewer did not support fields that could be filled in.

And there is the problem of 'verifying' who filled in the document and sent it to you.  I'm not sure that you are better off with a PDF than with a form that can be filled in on a web page (after some kind of login?).  I'm working on one right now where I repost the info on the next page for the user so they can print out a filled in copy of the form.
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by:COBOLdinosaur
COBOLdinosaur earned 250 total points
ID: 39166069
You have two conflicting and incompatible sets of requirements. You either have a very static rigid format that requires a given client environment to present correctly.  Or you have a presentation that renders under all conditions, but which may have cross-platform presentation differences.  

Pick one... or do both and give the user the option of what they want.

Trying to find a compromise will just result in neither requirement being met in a satisfactory manner.

Cd&
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Author Closing Comment

by:machine_run
ID: 39178299
THANKS! As I thought, 2 things you can't have at once.
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