June 24, 2011

eDiscovery: Open Source Is Always Changing the Future

Keith E. Moore, Esq.
Vice President, Technology

Some experts claim that e-discovery is quickly becoming a commodity market and, as such, is opening the door for open-source software to start to fill that need. A recent Law.com article, “Open Source Could Change the Future of E-Discovery,” profiled a new open-source project called FreeEed, suggesting that it may have a major impact on e-discovery.

I myself have used open-source software in many projects over the years. Open-source software is often the right choice, especially if you have the proper technical expertise in using the technology and in understanding the legal obligations of the different open-source licenses. Some e-discovery products are already using open-source software. Unfortunately, it is difficult to validate the full breadth of open-source software’s infiltration in established companies since many are unwilling to disclose their full technology stack. While hosted providers might use Oracle RDBMS or Microsoft SQL Server, many smaller e-discovery companies use MySQL, PostgreSQL, or other low-cost/open-source alternatives to stay competitive on price and avoid costly license charges for remote deployments.

One idea the Law.com article raised was that tech-savvy firms would be able to modify the open-source software to better fit their needs. However, having this ability raises several major legal concerns. First, any software modification raises the question whether the change reduces the tool’s defensibility in the court’s eyes. Judges who understand software development are not plentiful; therefore, any claims the opposing side makes about uncontrolled changes to the technology used for e-discovery can quickly prompt questions. Second, as soon as a company modifies the base version of the software, it has now assumed the support cost of implementing those changes as new versions come out. The updating process can quickly become cost prohibitive if the author of the package releases a new version that creates heavy incompatibility with the changes.

Right now, the project only covers the processing and culling aspects of e-discovery, which are definitely the oldest components. Thus, it will most likely affect companies that only do this type of work, which are quickly becoming a small part of the market. The more likely scenario is that additional companies will take advantage of this software to create complete solutions, mixing the processing line with closed-source and open-source components and adding a support layer to provide an end-to-end solution with a supported migration path. At Applied Discovery, we’re always looking at ways to improve our technologies, so we’re tracking the Open Source movement with great interest. Stay tuned!
Keith Moore
Vice President of Technology Solutions

1 comment:

Jesse said...

Always nice to find open sources for things like ediscovery software. Thank you!