The world’s largest law library has an enemy in its crosshairs: link rot.
The library’s mission of providing a comprehensive collection of U.S. law has led to a process for fighting the fleeting nature of internet hyperlinks, according to a blog post.
Charlotte Stichter, the Law Library of Congress’ managing editor, recently described the library’s new process for addressing “link rot,” or citations to hyperlinks that stop working. The Harvard Law Review estimates that 36 percent of hyperlinks cited in U.S. Supreme Court opinions from 1996-2012, for instance, no longer work.
Discovering the extent of the problem in legal citations led the library to Perma.cc, Stichter said. The service built by Harvard’s Library Innovation Lab helps the legal community create links to documents cited in their writing that never break.
As of October 2015, Congress’ law library has included a Perma.cc link as an alternate reference in all its own reports. For instance, the first footnote to a recent report on human trafficking reads:
Decreto-Ley 11.925, Sept. 30, 1957, BOLETÍN OFICIAL [B.O.], Oct. 30, 1957, http://infoleg.mecon.gov.ar/infoleg Internet/anexos/200000-204999/201859/norma.htm, archived at https://perma.cc/UBB4-UECN.
Perma.cc is primarily administered by law libraries but is available to scholars, journals, official law reports and courts.
While many legal citations from the Internet’s first 20 years may come to dead ends, there’s now hope that the legal hyperlinks of the future will be forever.
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