Devoted readers of On Point and its predecessor, Case Summaries, have, on more than a few occasions, encountered a problem called “link rot.” You’re reading a post. It includes a hyperlink to a tantalizing source. You click on it and get an error message. Arghh! On Point tries hard to catch and fix those links, but with several thousand posts and tens of thousands of hyperlinks we will never be able to update most of them.
Turns out On Point is in supreme company–as in supreme court company. A recent study found that 49% of United States Supreme Court opinions contain hyperlinks that no longer work. The New York Times notes that:
This can sometimes be amusing. A link in a 2011 Supreme Court opinion about violent video games by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. now leads to a mischievous error message.
“Aren’t you glad you didn’t cite to this Web page?” it asks. “If you had, like Justice Alito did, the original content would have long since disappeared and someone else might have come along and purchased the domain in order to make a comment about the transience of linked information in the Internet age.”
LOL. The problem is that we rely on supreme court decisions and the authorities they cite when representing our clients. Again, from the New York Times:
“It is disturbing that even at the Supreme Court, where creating and citing precedent is of the utmost importance, citations often fail to point the researcher to the authority on which the court based its decision,” Raizel Liebler and June Liebert, librarians at the John Marshall Law School in Chicago, wrote in a second recent look at the topic, “Something Rotten in the State of Legal Citation.” It was published in The Yale Journal of Law and Technology.
A group of law schools and libraries wants to fix this problem. Perma.cc is a platform aimed at creating permanent archived citations in published works. But who is going to submit all of those links to perma.cc?
If any of the links in this post fail, you know why.