Discussion on Legal Link Rot

Finally, Online Legal Information Is a Topic of Serious Discussion!

Legal link rot has been a newsworthy topic since the publication of  “Something Rotten in the State of Legal Citation: The Life Span of a United States Supreme Court Citation Containing an Internet Link (1996-2010) in Yale Journal of Law and Technology.  The New York Times featured the study in its September 23, 2013 article In Supreme Court Opinions, Web Links to Nowhere.

The ABA Journal has joined the discussion this month with “Link rot’ is degrading legal research and case cites.” The article features Chesapeake Digital Preservation Group (CDPG) which includes the Maryland State Law Library, Virginia State Law Library and the libraries of Georgetown and Harvard law schools.  CDPG harvests and preserves legally significant publications based on the collection development plans of its member libraries. Annually the members of the group check to see if links to a sample set of publications still work. The number of dead links has grown annually, but the 2013 report was significant because for the first over 50 percent of .gov links no longer worked.

It is gratifying to see the preservation of online legal information a topic of serious discussion and the work of groups like CDPG recognized. New tools like permaCC offer the promise of a consistent and permanent links to online legal information. Maybe by the end of the decade link rot will become a quaint artifact, like the sound of a 56K baud modem.

Mary Jo Lazun, Maryland State Law Library

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