“If permanence of legal thought is important to legal scholarship then it must be preserved consciously.”
–Howard A. Denemark, “The Death of Law Reviews has Been Predicted: What Might be Lost When the Last Law Review Shuts Down?” 27 SETON HALL L. REV. 1, 12 (1996).
According to a new study by Jonathan Zittrain and Kendra Albert at the Harvard Law School (Zittrain also has affiliations with Harvard’s Kennedy School, Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and the Berkman Center for Internet & Society) “49 percent of the hyperlinks in Supreme Court decisions no longer work. And more than 70% of the links in such journals as the Harvard Law Review (in that case measured from 1999 to 2012), currently don’t work. As time passes, the number of non-working links increases.” The study builds off of other great link rot studies such those done annually since 2010 by the Chesapeake Digital Preservation Group and the more resent one by Raizel Liebler and June Liebert in the Yale Journal of Law and Technology.
We’ve been tracking the issue of link rot for government information and the .gov domain for quite some time. There seems at this time to be a critical mass to actually DO something about it. The Harvard Library Innovation Lab, along with 30 law libraries from around the country, the Internet Archive and Instapaper, have come together to create the Perma.cc service, currently in beta, that allows users to create citation links that will never break.
I LOVE this idea. I’ve long been a fan/user of the Zotero Commons which allows users to save snapshots of their zotero citations in the Internet Archive (though I can’t tell if it’s still being actively maintained/developed). I can’t wait to see perm.cc in action!
The Harvard Library Innovation Lab has pioneered a project to unite libraries so that link rot can be mitigated. We are joined by about thirty law libraries around the world to start Perma.cc, which will allow those libraries on direction of authors and journal editors to store permanent caches of otherwise ephemeral links. Libraries are the ideal partners for this task: they think on a long timescale; they take user trust and service seriously; and they are non-commercial. You can see more about the system at perma.cc. The amazing Internet Archive has lent its archiving engine to the effort, and Instapaper has generously provided an alternative path to parse Web pages to be saved. CloudFlare has kindly ensured that the the system at Perma.cc can scale with use.
- Perma: Scoping and Addressing the Problem of Link and Reference Rot in Legal Citations Jonathan Zittrain and Kendra Albert. September 21, 2013
- Something Rotten in the State of Legal Citation: the Life Span of a United States Supreme Court Citation Containing an Internet Link (1996 – 2010). Raizel Liebler & June Liebert. 15 YALE J.L. & TECH. 273 (2013)
- “In Supreme Court Opinions, Web Links to Nowhere”. NY Times, September 23, 2013.
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