Wired News: Court Deals AT&T a Setback SAN FRANCISCO – A federal judge Wednesday shot down telecom giant AT&T’s efforts to recover and suppress internal documents that a former AT&T technician says demonstrate the company’s collusion in illegal government surveillance.

Once long ago documents took substantial time and effort to copy. The widespread use of copying machines in the 1970’s and 80’s radically cut the needed effort. though copying a substantial document was still time consuming. With the current use of computers, inexpensive mass storage, and the Internet - once in digital form, the cost to make practically unlimited number of copies is essentially zero.

The wording in this situation is rather obsolete. If the “original” documents given to the court was on some sort of physical media, that could be “recovered” by AT&T. This would be meaningless as doubtless copies have been made. A request to “gave back” the document(s) is meaningless (how many copies would you like?). Once in digital form, there is no distinction between an original and an identical copy.

The only meaningful request is to require the destruction of all copies of a document. In effect saying “forget you ever saw this…”