Thursday, April 26, 2012

Missing Links

In the movie The Social Network, the character Erica Albright tells Mark Zuckerberg that the Internet isn't written in pencil but in ink.

This post from the Georgetown Law web page suggests that it may be disappearing ink with respect to links to legal reports:

The Georgetown Law Library and members of the Chesapeake Digital Preservation Group have released new data that shows within a five-year period, nearly 38 percent of online legal reports and web pages preserved through the library’s efforts have disappeared from their original web addresses.

"The results of this study demonstrate the importance of web preservation efforts for law scholars, students, practitioners and researchers," said Georgetown Law Librarian Michelle M. Wu. "And the release is timely during this celebration of National Preservation Week 2012."

For the past five years, the Georgetown Law Library and the Chesapeake Digital Preservation Group have revisited a single sample of web addresses, or URLs, to examine their stability over time. The prevalence of link rot in the sample has steadily increased every year since 2008 when it was found to be 8.3 percent.

The 2012 analysis reveals that 37.7 percent of the online publications in the sample have disappeared from their original web addresses. However, due to the Georgetown Law Library and the Chesapeake Digital Preservation Group’s web archiving efforts, all of these publications have been preserved and can found online at

The sample used in the study includes 579 original URLs for law- and policy-related materials that have been captured from the web and archived. The majority of the URLs in the sample are from government (.us or .gov) organization (.org) web domains.

Georgetown Law is a founding member of the Chesapeake Digital Preservation Group, a digital preservation program established to preserve and ensure permanent access to vital legal information currently available in digital formats on the World Wide Web. Members include the Harvard Law School Library, the Maryland State Law Library and the Virginia State Law Library.

The Georgetown Law Library has taken a leadership role as an advocate for digital preservation. In 2003, it hosted a conference that resulted in the formation of the Legal Information Preservation Alliance, whose membership today includes more than 110 law libraries throughout the U.S. It explored the preservation of legal blogs at a 2009 symposium on the future of legal scholarship. The Library also recently established the Georgetown Law Dataverse archive to support the empirical research of Law Center faculty members, academic centers and institutes, and legal journals.

(Mike Frisch)

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