How to Handle Audio, the Forgotten Esi

As early as the year 2000, federal courts acknowledged that discoverable electronically stored information (ESI) included audio. Audio stored in digital formats is now found in a variety of storage systems and locations, and courts are likely to impose sanctions based on failure to adequately identify, preserve and disclose “sound recordings.” Failure to identify and disclose responsive audio evidence can lead to sanctions, including an adverse inference instruction.

The prudent course is to stay current on technology such as phonetic search software, which can enhance audio search capability, decrease its cost, and identify and disclose relevant and responsive audio. Attorneys who understand audio search issues, and the court mandates that pertain to them, can provide a valuable service to their clients.

Phonetic search software efficiently and cost-effectively breaks down audio content to “phonemes,” the smallest components of human speech, and creates a time-aligned phonetic index of the content. This allows for key word searches similar to a text-based search platform. The difference is that the software is looking for phonetic patterns that match the search terms.

Because phonetic search technology is not dictionary-based, there is no need to train the system for dialects or accents. This process not only creates the truest representation of spoken audio, but it enables the most accurate access to information contained within the audio files. Reviewers can listen to potentially relevant content to verify, annotate, and tag responsive and privileged recordings.