The Supreme Court has announced two important changes to its website. The Court will now highlight changes to slip opinions and the Court will now attempt to preserve web-based content cited in Court opinions. These website enhancements address two digital preservation problems: changes to content over time, known as “content-drift”, and content being deleted or moved, called “link-rot.”
Here is the text of the two announcements, which appeared under the “What’s New” section of the Court’s homepage:
Beginning with the October Term 2015, postrelease edits to slip opinions on the Court’s website will be highlighted and the date they occur will be noted. The date of any revision will be listed in a new “Revised” column on the charts of Opinions, In-Chambers Opinions, and Opinions Related to Orders under the “Opinions” tab on the website. The location of a revision will be highlighted in the opinion. When a cursor is placed over a highlighted section, a dialog box will open to show both old and new text. See Sample Opinions” for an example of how postrelease edits will appear on the website.
The Court’s Office of Information Technology is collaborating with the Library, the Reporter of Decisions’ Office, and the Clerk’s Office to preserve web-based content cited in Court opinions. To address the problem of “link rot,” where internet material cited in Court opinions may change or cease to exist, web-based content included in Court opinions from the 2005 Term forward is being made available on the Court’s website. Hard copies will continue to be retained in the case files by the Clerk’s Office. See “Internet Sources Cited in Opinions.”
An article in the New York Times puts these changes into context:
- Supreme Court Plans to Highlight Revisions in Its Opinions, By ADAM LIPTAKOCT. New York Times (Oct. 5, 2015).
The Supreme Court announced on Monday that it would disclose after-the-fact changes to its opinions, a common practice that had garnered little attention until a law professor at Harvard wrote about it last year.
The court also took steps to address “link rot” in its decisions. A study last year found that nearly half of hyperlinks in Supreme Court opinions no longer work.
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