Friday, September 27, 2013

New website aims to solve problem of linkrot in court opinions and legal scholarship

A recent study by Harvard law prof Jonathan Zittrain showed that of the more than 500 United States Supreme Court opinions published since 1996 that included hotlinks to web-based materials, about half no longer work.  As a result, Professor Zittrain's has started, with the support of  a consortium of law school libraries and others, a website called that will serve as a permanent archive for web-based materials cited in court opinions, law review articles and the like.  Its purpose is to "preserve the foundation of legal scholarship online" by creating citation links that will never break.  Here's how users will interact with the website which is now in beta testing:

Any author can go to the website and input a URL. downloads the material at that URL and gives back a new URL (a “ link”) that can then be inserted in a paper.

After the paper has been submitted to a journal, the journal staff checks that the provided link actually represents the cited material. If it does, the staff “vests” the link and it is forever preserved. Links that are not “vested” will be preserved for two years, at which point the author will have the option to renew the link for another two years.

Readers who encounter links can click on them like ordinary URLs. This takes them to the site where they are presented with a page that has links both to the original web source (along with some information, including the date of the link’s creation) and to the archived version stored by

The service will be free and open to all.

Hat tip to the Wall Street Journal Law Blog.


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