The COVID-19 pandemic augmented our increasingly virtual world. As such, the plethora of data at our fingertips has changed. Business Insider reported that Zoom meeting participants rose from 10 million in December 2019 to 300 million by April 2020. Although some in-person meetings have resumed, meeting recordings and other media files are increasingly in scope in discovery. This means all investigations will need a varied range of technology to handle the unique challenges media files present.
New technologies enable a more complete disclosure review exercise that also brings the benefit of reducing timelines, minimizing costs, and increasing efficiencies.
As workplaces become more hybrid and decentralized, data collected from collaboration tools that incorporate audio and video call technology like Microsoft Teams and Zoom will increasingly be pertinent data sources in legal proceedings. Recent examples include the Amber Heard v Johnny Depp defamation trial and the Wagatha Christie legal battle. Both cases demonstrate the importance of multimedia evidence to support their cases. In each situation, the disclosure workflow would include enhanced transcription capabilities to capture and search the text. These are good examples of collecting social media data, but there are also examples where organizations maintain multimedia recordings as required by government regulations.
Financial organizations that do business in the United States must adhere to the Dodd-Frank Act that requires them to record all calls to achieve greater accountability and transparency; similar requirements are upheld within the UK by the Financial Conduct Authority. When a dispute, investigation, or subject access request emerges, these calls hold massive amounts of information that must be culled.
In one case against a Midwest manufacturer, there were hundreds of audio and video files showing the installation of the organization’s product in the field. In this matter, the issue focused on defective installation by the manufacturer and failure to maintain by the Department of Transportation. Over 1,500 hours of media files were collected and processed through advanced transcription technology. Less than 10 hours were determined to be relevant. Without this technology, the organization would have had to spend tens of thousands of dollars to review each video in real time.
Multimedia files present unique e-discovery challenges in that they do not act the same way as standard email or Word files and require different technology to search. Prior to this technology, attorneys reviewing media files had to spend the equivalent length of time as the recordings plus additional time to relisten as needed. When a redaction was needed, the full media recording was often withheld, or an extensive amount of time was dedicated to cutting the audio and media into clips and placing black boxes over confidential information or PII. Even then, this would need to be done for each frame of the recording.
Leveraging advanced transcription tools has alleviated many of these past challenges, changing a manual process to an automated one and reducing human error. These tools search audio by key terms, they can redact specific words or phrases by removing vocals on a track for any period and they can search for and identify PII and remove that PII from the video, including faces. As a result, the usage of these tools has increased substantially.
We live in a virtual world—your legal proceedings and investigations all have media files. Reviewing them in real time is laborious, but they should not be ignored. If multimedia content is not adequately assessed or incorporated into a review workflow, disclosure exercises are left exposed to delays and are potentially incomplete.
Should your investigation, arbitration, litigation, or project consist of media files, consider leveraging these advanced machine transcription tools. Be mindful, not all these tools are created equal and dragging and dropping a media file into a free transcription program may destroy any privilege or confidentiality in that media.