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A troubling legal research problem: Link Rot

On September 21st, a new study was released on SSRN that details a problem that face researchers, librarians and attorneys with the new online world of legal research. The problem is 'link rot', meaning that active URLs, over time, no longer lead to helpful research material. In some cases the information is moved to a new web page. Other times, the host no longer supports the site, or the information was taken down and the link was not updated.

In the study from Harvard University, the most shocking statistics are that 70% of links in the Harvard Law Review (from 1999-2012) and 49% of links in Supreme Court Opinions are no longer working. That is a lot of important information that is being lost or made more difficult to locate.

What can be done to slow down or stop link rot? Many libraries review their records to update and maintain links, but it is a time-consuming venture, and law reviews and other research entities may not have the time or money to undertake the task. One step has already been taken by the author of the study. "Perma", a project that stores links in a way that they can be continually accessed was created to keep link rot at bay. The project essentially archives links, allowing for them to stay active even if the 'live' page is no longer working. Over 30 law libraries are currently partnered with Harvard in the project.

For further information on Link Rot, readYale's study that presents other ideas about how to combat the problem and what causes link rot. Thanks to Eric Taylor for bringing this important study to the attention of WisBlawg.