Link Rot and Legal Resources

The Chesapeake Project Legal Information Archive has released the results of its third annual analysis of “link rot” among the original URLs for law- and policy-related materials published to the Web and archived though the Chesapeake Project.

The 2010 analysis reveals that nearly 28 percent of the online publications archived between March 2007 and March 2008 have now disappeared from their original locations on the Web but, due to the project’s preservation efforts, remain accessible via permanent archive URLs. This sample of online publications was first analyzed in 2008 and showed link rot to be present in 8.3 percent of the publications’ original URLs. One year later, in 2009, the same sample showed an increase in link rot to 14.3 percent.

During the three years that the URLs were studied, link rot increased from about one in every 12 archived titles in 2008, to one in every seven titles in 2009, and finally to about one in every 3.5 titles in 2010. These findings demonstrate a dramatic increase in link rot among archived Web content over time.

The analysis also explores the prevalence of link rot among top-level domains, showing content at state-government URLs (.state.__.us) to be at a significant risk for link rot, compared to resources posted to government (.gov) and organization (.org) Web sites.

A detailed summary of the study is available at http://legalinfoarchive.org/.

The Chesapeake Project was launched in 2007 by the Georgetown University Law Library and the State Law Libraries of Maryland and Virginia as a collaborative digital archive for the preservation of important Web-published legal materials, which often disappear as online content is reorganized or deleted over time.

Having successfully completed its two-year pilot phase in 2009, the Chesapeake Project Legal Information Archive is expanding. A new law library has recently joined the Chesapeake Project, and the Legal Information Preservation Alliance (LIPA) in March 2010 announced the formation of its Legal Information Archive, a collaborative digital preservation program for the law library community modeled after the Chesapeake Project. All LIPA-member libraries are invited to participate in the Legal Information Archive. 

For more information, visit the LIPA Web site at www.aallnet.org/committee/lipa or the Chesapeake Project at www.legalinfoarchive.org.

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