Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A potential problem citing to online authority - it disappears.

The blog Abstract Appeal notes a potential problem lurking in all cites to virtual authorities that is underscored by Microsoft's recent decision to scuttle Encarta - the underlying authorities may simply vanish.

It can happen. Last month, {Florida's] Fifth District issued this opinion concerning a paternity action. The opinion defined the word "reputed," as in the term "reputed father," by citing Microsoft's online Encarta reference center. That was so last month. Later this year, according to this Microsoft announcement, Encarta will disappear from the virtual landscape. Click. Gone.

What is a court to do? That is not easy to say. Printed dictionaries are permanent resources but they are becoming scarce. I keep a massive one on my desk at work, but I confess I have gone from using it a dozen times a day to perhaps a dozen times a year. I now use online dictionaries and even keep my search boxes in Firefox and Internet Explorer set on Dictionary.com rather than a search engine.

I suspect that courts will continue to cite online resources. Every once in a while, though, their published opinions may prove to be the only remaining trace of what those resources once said.

Hat tip to Professor Lisa Butler-Smith.

I am the scholarship dude.

(jbl)

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/legalwriting/2009/04/a-potential-problem-citing-to-online-authority-it-disappears.html

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Comments

There is an answer: www.webcitation.org. It will save archived copies of most web pages, and it appears unlikely to disappear as a service. At least one court (the District of Minnesota) has used this service to archive web pages cited in judicial opinions. But the service is not widely known or used yet.

You could help fix that!

Posted by: Bobo Linq | Apr 16, 2009 7:07:57 AM

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