Professor Jonathan Zittrain, Kendra Albert, and Professor Lawrence Lessig, all of Harvard University, have posted Perma: Scoping and Addressing the Problem of Link and Reference Rot in Legal Citations.
Here is a summary:
We document a serious problem of reference rot: more than 70% of the URLs within the Harvard Law Review and other journals, and 50% of the URLs found within U.S. Supreme Court opinions do not link to the originally cited information. […]
In response, the Harvard Library Innovation Lab has pioneered a project to unite libraries so that link rot can be mitigated. We are joined by about thirty law libraries around the world to start Perma.cc which will allow those libraries on direction of authors and journal editors to store permanent caches of otherwise ephemeral links. Libraries are the ideal partners for this task: they think on a long timescale; they take user trust and service seriously; and they are non-commercial. You can see more about the system at perma.cc. The amazing Internet Archive has lent its archiving engine to the effort, and Instapaper has generously provided an alternative path to parse Web pages to be saved. CloudFlare has kindly ensured that the the system at Perma.cc can scale with use. […]
Professor Zittrain has a new post describing the research.
Adam Liptak has a new article about the research in The New York Times.