The application of the Archival Material and Archival Activity Act starts this February
The Archival Material and Archival Activity Act (“Official Gazette RS”, No. 6/2020), will begin to apply on 2 February 2021. Considering that it applies to all creators and holders of archival and documentary material (hereinafter: the “Creators”), the new regime will affect not only the organization of archives and archival activities, but also companies and entrepreneurs in Serbia, especially the matter of new obligations for these subjects and stricter penal policy.
Prohibition of destruction and damage to archive material
Running a business generates a variety of documentary material. Due to the importance of its content, a part of that material has the status of archival material which, as a cultural good of general interest, must be kept permanently. Archival material is kept as a whole – archival fund, and after 30 years from its creation, it is handed over for keeping to the competent public archive.
Notwithstanding the progressive character of the Act on many issues, such as paying special attention to “documentary material in electronic form”, it is explicitly prescribed that the Creators must keep all business documentation created in paper form in the original, regardless of its possible existence in digital form (e.g. scan). Exceptionally, originals of documents in non-electronic form for which a certain keeping period is prescribed (which is done by a special law) may be destroyed before the expiration of the period, provided that they are kept within the service of qualified electronic documents keeping. However, in accordance with the Law on Electronic Document, Electronic Identification and Trust Services in Electronic Business, this service (qualified trust service) may be provided only by registered entities, which do not exist in Serbia yet.
Other liabilities of economic entities
The Act dedicates a particular chapter to the regulation of the duties of the Creators and holders of archival and documentary material. Creators who are legal entities are obliged to provide space and equipment for the storage of archival material, appoint an expert responsible for protection, keep an archive book on the prescribed form and perform other activities in cooperation with the competent archive. An important obligation is the adoption of acts related to document management, which includes the List of categories of documentary material with keeping periods. On the basis of this act, the Creator makes a “selection” of archival material (parts that are permanently kept and which have not expired), and destroys the rest of the material in accordance with the law.
The Act stipulates that the Creators of documentation originally created in electronic form shall perform the preparing of the documentation for storage, as well as reliable electronic storage “in accordance with the regulations governing reliable electronic storage and in accordance with regulations adopted on the basis of this law”, and that requirements and procedures shall be regulated by the Government. In the absence of new bylaws, the mentioned Law on Electronic Document is going to apply (Articles 60-62), as well as the following acts:
- Rulebook on conditions for procedures and technological solutions used during reliable electronic storage of documents (“Official Gazette RS”, Nos. 94/2018 and 87/2020), which prescribes the obligation to attach a qualified electronic signature or seal to the document, the format of which satisfies the prescribed conditions. The amendment to the Rulebook from June last year envisages mandatory harmonization with international standards ETSI TS 119 511 and ETSI TS 119 512.
- Decree on the conditions for preparation of documents for reliable electronic storage and document formats suitable for long-term storage (“Official Gazette of RS”, No. 86/2018) which regulates the preparation procedure and prescribes formats, in accordance with applicable standards.