Legal link rot









It has happened to all of us: you're reading an article and happen upon a footnote that looks intriguing. You click on the link, and boom, 404 error.


Last year, the Harvard Law Review Forum published 'Perma: Scoping and Addressing the Problem of Link and Reference Rot in Legal Citations: How to Make Legal Scholarship More Permanent, which offers a solution for the broken links that litter legal scholarship over time.

They found: "Of our spot-checked sample, only 29.9% of the HRJ links, 26.8% of the HLR links, and 34.2% of the JOLT links contained the material cited due to link or reference rot."

The article therefore pitches the idea of Perma:

"...a platform that will allow authors and editors to automatically generate, store, and reference — in a freely and publicly accessible manner — archived data representing the relevant information of a cited online resource. A freely accessible web database of cited materials will not only allow for the owners of websites to no longer worry about maintaining cited links, it will create better references and more easily verified scholarship."

You can sign up for a free account with Perma and check it out. Basically, the services archives the item that you wish to cite and creates a perpetual URL that will lead future would-be readers back to the material. I'm not sure if there are copyright implications with the service; perhaps that remains to be seen. But for now, it looks like a fantastic idea, and one that libraries are involved in supporting.

References

Jill Lepore, 'Can the Internet be Archived?', The New Yorker, 26 January 2015. http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/01/26/cobweb

Jonathan Zittrain, Kendra Albert and Lawrence Lessig, 'Perma: Scoping and Addressing the Problem of Link and Reference Rot in Legal Citations: How to Make Legal Scholarship More Permanent', (2014) 27 Harvard Law Review F. 176

ALLA(WA) Committee Secretary - Megan Fitzgibbons. 
Librarian, University of Western Australia.


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