Harvard Wins Webby Award for Addressing Legal “Link Rot”
The Harvard Law School Library won the Webby Award for the best legal website of 2015 by developing Perma.cc
Perma.cc addresses a significant yet largely unknown issue in the legal industry known as “link rot.” The term refers to the condition of Internet links no longer working. The problem infects legal writing all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In fact, according to a recent article in the Yale Journal of Law & Technology, nearly one-third of the websites cited in the high court’s opinions are no longer functional.
As the authors explain in the article, entitled Something Rotten in Legal Citation, “Citations are the cornerstone upon which judicial opinions and law review articles stand. Citations provide both authorial verification of the original source material at the moment they are used and the needed information for readers to later find the cited source. The ability to check citations and verify that citations to the original sources are accurate is integral to ensuring accurate characterizations of sources and determining where a researcher found information.”
Since websites change, get taken down, or simply disappear, Perma.cc helps scholars, journals and courts create permanent links to the online sources cited in their work. The website, which was created in conjunction with more than 50 university law libraries, is currently used by courts, law reviews, and other legal publishers across the country.
Preserving a link
As detailed on the Perma.cc website, preserving a link involves a simple three-step process. To get started, users input a URL and Perma.cc downloads the material at that URL and provides a new URL (a “Perma.cc link”) that can then be inserted in a document. To prevent abuse, links only become permanent when they are “vested” by someone affiliated with a vesting organization, such as a journal or court. When readers encounter Perma.cc links, they can click on them like ordinary URLs and are directed to the Perma.cc site. Readers then have the option to view to the original web source as well as the archived version stored by Perma.cc.
The Webby Awards honor the best sites on the Internet. The award, which began in 1996, is bestowed by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences. The Academy is comprised of leading Web experts, business figures, luminaries, visionaries and creative celebrities. According to the New York Times, a “Webby” is the Internet’s highest honor. The creators of Perma.cc were recognized at an official awards ceremony May 18 in New York City.