Brownie points

By | 24th January 2012

When asked what possession they would save in the event of a house fire, many people will plump for the family photograph album. Even if there is research on the subject to back up this assertion, I think it likely that the population will divide along generational lines. Just as generations which made do with portraits and landscapes painted onto canvas gave way to photographs on film, so today many people take digital photographs and share them on line and never ever print them off.

I suspect that the owners of Kodak are ruefully aware of this today as I read that the company has filed for Chapter 11 protection from bankruptcy in the US with liabilities exceeding assets by a staggering $1.65 billion. This does not necessarily mean the end of Kodak as a business but it is a sad day when the inventor of that ubiquitous camera, the box Brownie, loses its way so dramatically. Millions of people will remember the Brownie and I am told that even Neil Armstrong took photos on the moon with one.

Kodak almost got it right, as it astutely anticipated the advent of digital photography but then failed to foresee the rise of the likes of Facebook and other sites where photos can be viewed and shared resulting in the collapse of the market for printing photographs. Effectively Kodak was lost once someone worked out how to plug a camera into a computer and share and display photographs without the need to print them off and stick them in an album.

Despite the fact that I bought a roll of film in the past week (24 exposure and black and white, if you must know) and can look forward to slotting the capsule into a camera and pulling the bit of film hanging out of the end across the aperture to fix onto the roller on the other side just like we used to do, I have to accept that this procedure is not the way of the future. No more snapping the back of the camera shut and checking that the number of exposures appears in the counter before pointing and clicking and winding on. No more keen anticipation while you wait for the pictures to be developed and returned (but possibly also no more disappointment when you find that the film was over exposed or did not take the pictures at all!)

The world of handling disclosure has been going through the same game changing process for some time now. It is rare now to come across a litigation lawyer with no appreciation that life has changed and that expensive and time consuming linear human review is no longer the gold standard for modern document review. Just as photography has changed and digital is now the name of the game, so it is now imperative that lawyers at least consider ways in which technology may be able to assist in the disclosure process. There is a lot of technology out there, and its use or possibly the way in which it is used will not always be appropriate, but not to have an understanding of what can be done and what is available and not to consider how the technology may help is today as inappropriate as it was for the army commanders Lucan, Raglan and Cardigan to expect the Light Brigade to charge the Russian guns in Tennyson’s “Valley of Death” at the Battle of Balaclava in 1854.

Life has changed. Whether it is for the better, we will have to wait and see but there is a growing body of evidence and case law which suggests that it is and hard evidence exists that time and money is being saved in the process.

What would our wise Brown Owl make of all this? Though I tend to think of little brown chocolate biscuit cakes when people talk about brownies, of course the real Brownies are little girls who troop off to meet their leader Brown Owl one night of the week as a precursor to becoming Girl Guides. They used to wear brown uniforms festooned with badges gained as a result of different achievements and had a great fun time by all accounts. But Brown Owl would be the first to recognise that times have changed in that the main uniform now appears to be bright yellow according to the brownie website.  It cannot be long before someone demands that the Brownies be known by another name; my guess is though that, being a wise bird, Brown Owl will take it all in her stride. Her advice to her charges, to the likes of Kodak and to any reluctant lawyers out there cleaving to the old ways of paper review, is obviously “adapt or die.”

It could not be simpler than that!

Photo: Brown owl on Public Domain Images