Over the last month, Genna and Gouthami have been working together closely as the former shows the latter, the world of small business Intellectual Property. Something that might be routine to an “old hat” can be an exciting revelation to a newer practitioner. We were discussing metadata and thought that our approach could be useful to others. Obviously, these little tips should in no way be considered legal advice.
What’s the problem?
Metadata is hidden information stored in a file. Every time you edit a file or a document– information is saved in the metadata, information like: tracked changes, version history, embedded objects, location from which the file was accessed, and more. There are often program functions that allow you to remove some metadata, but if you are not familiar with them you could easily be sending privileged and confidential information out the door. There are also software and online services for scrubbing metadata that you can subscribe to or purchase. What if those options do not appeal to you?
TIP 1: Go for hard-copy scan!
If you need to send a word processor document to an outside party without the intention of editing (e.g. a finalized contract ready to sign), an easy way to eliminate the metadata is to print a hard copy, and scan it as a pdf. While converting electronically from .doc to .pdf generally removes track changes information, other information about your original doc may be retained in an electronic conversion.
TIP 2: Think about drafts in contracts
Now say you want to send a draft agreement to an opposing party and you want to make it easy for them to edit the .doc, but you don’t want to divulge the privileged attorney work product or attorney/client information contained in the metadata when you and your staff/client were drafting and revising the document? You can eliminate the metadata by copying the text containing the metadata, pasting it in a text editor like Notepad, then re-copy from the text editor and paste it on to a new word processor document. The metadata will be lost in the act of copying and pasting, but keep in mind you will also lose your formatting. If you type the substance of your document before pasting, any edits made to the new-pasted version will only be formatting changes.