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The PDF Association’s Publication Procedure


Formal document development requires a considered, consistent and streamlined methodology for review and approval. The following procedures are aligned with (but not equivalent to) the procedures required of an ANSI SDO. The following updated procedures were adopted by the Board of Directors on September 29, 2020 and updated on December 20, 2023. Questions should be directed to standards@pdfa.org.


The term “interest group” is used herein to refer to any organisational sub-unit of the PDF Association, including Technical, Liaison or Marketing Working Groups, ad hoc groups, or others that create documents for public distribution.


Comments on this process are welcome at any time. It is expected that this process will be modified in various ways to accommodate real-world experience. The Board encourages members to post comments or ask questions.

Technical methods

At early stages document authors may use their own preferred means of authoring and collaborating on text for PDF Association documents. Commenters may use the method convenient to them, including (minimally) the PDF Association’s stand-alone commenting model. Minimally, a PDF version of each document (including bookmarks and tags) is required for all steps after Step 1. Following completion of the text the result shall be submitted into the PDF production process as a revisable DOC, DOCX or Google doc file, with all figures and illustrations delivered separately. Final “reference” published PDF files shall be in conformity with at least PDF/A-2u and PDF/UA-1, and / or PDF/X, or other specifications, as appropriate.

Approval process

Documents intended as PDF Association technical publications will undergo the following procedure:

Step 1 - Initiation

An interest group may decide to distribute a release candidate (RC) document to the IG membership for comment via a roll call vote of its members present at a given meeting.

Step 2 – Member comment period

Following step 1 the RC is then sent to the full PDF Association membership providing two weeks for response, with comments forwarded to interest group members.

Comments are submitted openly; those commenting must provide name, company and email address.

The interest group members review, discuss, and/or resolve the comments on the RC and provide a revised RC.

Step 3 – Interest group approval

Following step 2, the interest group may approve its document using internal processes and after consideration of members' comments. Once the interest group is ready to proceed to a formal vote the group's chair sends the revised RC to staff to issue a two-week ballot.

Interest group members may vote:

  • YES
  • YES with comments
  • NO with comments
  • Abstain (with or without comments)

Each member has a single vote. Ballots are not secret; those voting must provide name, company and email address. Agreement to publish is determined by two-thirds of the votes received. The interest group will make every effort to resolve negative votes to achieve consensus. If the interest group deems it necessary, the document will be revised and recirculated for ballot.

Step 4 – IP review

The Board may elect to skip Step 4, or alter the IP review period - depending on the type and/or complexity of the publication.

Following step 3, a nominal 60-day IP review period begins. The latest draft is sent to all members.

Any member may submit non-binding statements via the IP statement form regarding IP with an Essential Claim that may impact the content, implementation, creation, use, etc. related to the publication. Without attribution, examination, or prejudice, all IP thus identified shall be recorded and passed to the IG for their consideration. If the draft is subsequently modified by the IG, then the process restarts at Step 2.

The PDF Association shall not be held responsible for identifying Third Party IP rights that may be implicated by any specification, or for conducting inquiries into the applicability, existence, validity, or scope of any Third Party IP rights, or for obtaining licensing assurances with respect to any Third Party IP rights.

Step 5 – Partner member review

Following step 3, PDF Association Partner members are sent an online ballot and requested to respond within two weeks. Partner members may vote:

  • YES
  • YES with comments
  • NO with comments (i.e., comments are required for a “no” vote)
  • Abstain (with or without comments)

Each Partner member has a single vote.

Ballots are not secret; those voting must provide name, company and email address.

Agreement to publish is determined by two-thirds of the votes received. The interest group will make every effort to resolve negative votes to achieve consensus.

Step 6 – Publication

The Board of Directors (B0D) will assess the approval process, ballot results, including participation rate, number and nature of objections, and other factors at the next available Board of Directors meeting after previous approval steps are completed.

If approved for publication by the Board of Directors, PDF Association staff will deliver the final text for PDF production. The resulting file will be made available for editorial review by the interest group prior to publication on pdfa.org.

PDF Association publications are published under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Observing the Board

Partner members are eligible for a seat on the PDF Association’s Board of Directors. Board membership requires an invitation from the Board and a positive vote from the Association’s members. The Board wishes to state a policy to address the participation of those Partner Members that are not members of the Board at Board meetings.

Board Invitee

During any Board meeting, the Board may record a decision to invite an existing Partner Member to join Board meetings in the role of Board Invitee. The Board naturally welcomes the questions and comments of Invitees at Board meetings; however, Invitees have no vote in Board decisions.

Category A Liaison with ISO

ISO status

At the Beijing meeting of TC 171 SC 2 in October 2008, the PDF Association (formerly the PDF/A Competence Center) was approved as a Category A Liaison. In October 2012, the PDF Association was approved as a Category A Liaison with ISO TC 130 WG 2 (where PDF/X, PDF/VT and XMP are developed in several task forces).

Rights under this status

The liaisons entitle the PDF Association to active participation of development of standards within ISO TC 171 SC 2 and TC 130 WG 2. This implies that our organization gets very early access to information and documents as they become available during the ongoing work of the ISO TC 171 SC 2 and TC 130 WG 2 committees. It also implies that we are requested to actively participate in the development of standards, and to submit comments and recommendations. The main difference compared with P members (participating members, i.e. those countries out of 163 national member bodies that are actively involved in a given standards project) is that we are not entitled to vote on standards. Every member of the PDF Association thus has the right and the responsibility to get involved in the further development of standards like PDF/A, PDF/E, PDF/UA or PDF itself, as well as new ISO standards in this field.

Respect intellectual property and copyright

All documents made available to you in the context of this liaison are subject to intellectual property rights and copyright. At the minimum this implies that you are required to ensure that documents shared here remain within your organization. It is not allowed to distribute these documents beyond your organization or to publish them in any way. It is nevertheless to speak about these document in the public, and to refer to them conceptually, for example whenever it is necessary to learn about the position needs and opinion of  your business partners or any other organization or person possibly impacted by the standards developed here. Learn more about your membership obligations.

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