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September 23, 2013
perma.cc Tries to Combat Link Rot
Jonathan Zittrain put up an interesting blog post
today giving a checkpoint in ongoing efforts to combat link rot
. This is becoming a particular problem for legal scholars as Zittrain and his coauthors (Kendra Albert and Lawrence Lessig, abstract here on SSRN
) found that half of all links written into Supreme Court opinions have rotted in the sense of "no longer work" and it is impossible to trace how many of the still-working links have changed content since the opinion was written. Although link rot of this kind is unlikely to change the meaning or impact of these rulings, it makes future interpretation difficult and more obscure.
Zittrain notes that the effort to combat rot is uniting "about thirty law libraries" using the base engine pioneered by the Internet Archive with help from Web technologies companies such as Instapaper and CloudFlare. It will be interesting to see what they end up archiving, as it's based on a voluntary contribution model. Publishers, authors, and journalists submit material for "permanent" archiving, which makes the sample entirely self-selected, but that may be enough.
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