Something Rotten in the Supreme Court: Web Links

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The Supreme Court has included hyperlinks in its opinions 555 times since 1996, but good luck tracking down those sources online.

Because of the ephemeral nature of the Internet, 49% of those links don’t work anymore, according to a new study from Harvard Law professor Jonathan Zittrain and Harvard law student student Kendra Albert.

The phenomenon of “rotten links” means that many of the online citations are lost to the reader (though the Court clerk holds a hard copy, if you must have it), replaced by 404 Errors and unintended webpages.

“Aren’t you glad you didn’t cite to this Web page?” reads one such link, from a 2011 opinion written by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. “If you had, like Justice Alito did, the original content would have long since disappeared and someone else might have come along and purchased the domain in order to make a comment about the transience of linked information in the Internet age.”

[New York Times]