Extract from Jim Gill’s article “When it Comes to Using Screenshots as Evidence, It’s All About Authentication”
Complex data sources – such as chat messages or a SaaS application’s user interface – are called that for a reason in the world of ediscovery: namely because it’s challenging to reproduce the data in a way that’s useful for attorneys and investigators.
In recent case law, there have been a number of examples of courts requesting screenshots as a way to present the evidence at hand. But do screenshots meet the “best evidence rule?”
Federal Rules of Evidence 1001, 1002, and 1003
In the Federal Rules of Evidence (FRE), Rules 1001, 1002, and 1003 together define “best evidence” when it comes to discovery. Rule 1002 sets the standard for obtaining original documents. However, Rule 1001 states, “Present-day techniques have expanded methods of storing data, yet the essential form which the information ultimately assumes for usable purposes is words and figures. Hence the considerations underlying the rule dictate its expansion to include computers, photographic systems, and other modern developments.”
FRE Rule 1001 goes on to define an admissible copy as being, “produced by methods possessing an accuracy which virtually eliminates the possibility of error.” And Rule 1003 opens the door to using duplicates by stating, “When the only concern is with getting the words or other contents before the court with accuracy and precision, then a counterpart serves equally as well as the original if the counterpart is the product of a method which ensures accuracy and genuineness.”