Link Rot in Court Decisions – Still a Problem

Back in 2009, I did a quick check on link rot in Canadian decisions on CanLII. Today I repeated my quick investigation of link rot in Canadian judicial decisions. To gather decisions with URLs I simply searched for the text “http://” in CanLII. I limited my results for 2012 decisions, and sorted by date.

There were 156 court decisions in 2012 that referenced websites by specific URL. I looked at 10 decisions – all of which were decided between December 19 and 31, 2012. There were 4 broken hyperlinks. One reference was missing the colon in “http://”, and once that was inserted, the link worked. The broken links were intended to lead to specific documents. The URLs that were unsuccessful pointed to a Government of Alberta site, to a professional organization in Newfoundland and Labrador, to a document on the Federation of Law Societies of Canada site, and to a document from the Government of Canada.

Link rot is a nasty problem that is attended to by study and commentary. See, for example, Michel-Adrien Sheppard’s post about the Fifth Annual Link Rot Report of the Chesapeake Digital Preservation Group.

Given that we still have a problem, what do Slawyers think should be done about this?


  1. David Collier-Brown

    If I were trying to create archive-quality documents, I would be tempted to annotate the link with a creation date as per wikipedia, and also save a copy of the document linked to at the time the link was created, as does google. If the “real” link doesn’t work, the reader can follow the “cache” link and see what was there at the time the link was created.

    I might also ask the National Library of Canada what other things they might recommend.


  2. I’d support WebCite, the 10 year old user driven citation service. It allows users to create a stable link/snapshot that will prevent link rot. Wikis, courts, academics have been using it for years. They are now seeking funding to keep the service going for the next 10+ years.