Ever heard of link rot? Or reference rot? If you’ve used the internet, you’re guaranteed to have encountered it whether or not you’ve heard of it by name. Link rot happens when a URL no longer works, instead displaying the dreaded 404 error or bogging down your browser until it inevitably fails to load anything. Reference rot is a similar but equally frustrating problem: it’s when a URL works but the content to which it should be pointing has been moved or removed. Both of these digital preservation curses are a festering plague for legal citations everywhere, as this Harvard Law Review Forum post details, but thanks to the Harvard Library Innovation Lab there is a simple solution: Perma.cc.
If you’re citing to web-based references in your legal writings, you should be using it. In fact, if you’re working on any of our law review journals, we already created a Perma.cc guide just for you. Why? Because Perma makes an archival copy of the web page and gives you an indelible, i.e. permanent, link that will always lead the reader back to the exact material they’re supposed to find. Through a consortium of academic libraries and nonprofits, Perma divides the burden of retaining the archival cache while also increasing the likelihood of its endurance through the longevity of academic institutions. Rest assured your Perma links will be viable for many years to come thanks to this ingenious design.
How does Perma.cc work? Three simple steps. 1) Find a web resource you want to cite and log in to your Perma.cc account. 2) Copy the URL and paste it into the Perma.cc creation box.
3) Click ‘Create Perma Link’ and wait a few seconds for a new permanent URL to appear at the top of your screen.
From then on you use the new Perma link in your writing, ensuring the reader can always find the archived version of the web resource you cited. On the back end you can organize your Perma links in the same fashion you organize files and folders on a network. With our institutional account, there are no limits on the number of Perma links you can create.
And for the record, The Bluebook encourages the use of an archival tool when there’s a reliable archival tool available (see Rule 18). With Perma.cc, there is! If you haven’t already discovered Perma, contact the PLRC to get your login and join the good fight against link and reference rot in legal scholarship!