I was reminded by a Facebook post from technologist and the founder of blogging, Dave Winer, that law blogs need to be hosted for perpetuity.

Here’s something basic. If you host blogs, you have an ethical obligation to try to keep the archive online for perpetuity. This allows for bankruptcy or acts of war or god, and mortality, but if you’re not committed to best efforts, then don’t host.

If blogs are not archived and made available for reading forever, we’ve lost someone’s insight and commentary. The links to such a blog’s posts would be lost. Citations to such a blog would be meaningless.

Imagine if we threw away all the law journal/review articles and legal treatises when the author stopped writing or passed. We got their works off the library shelves and tossed them into the dumpster.

Every citation to their works in briefs, court decisions (trial and appellate), briefs, and other journals and treatises would be “dead.”

At first glance, you may think, “So what, someone stops legal blogging or passes, their law blog goes away. Who needs it for posterity sake, other than maybe their relatives?”

We also have a ton of junk and marginal copy out their in the form of law blogs.

Law blogs, once exclusively lawyers reporting on legal developments and exchanging insight and comments to advance legal dialogue, have become the home of many “content marketers.” Rather than legal commentary and news, we have marketers and PR people penning content for lawyers merely to garner search engine rankings and website traffic.

But at the end of the day, we have a ton of good legal insight and commentary being penned by thousands of legal professionals, world-wide. It’s coming on just about every legal topic under the sun, certainly more topics are being covered than in the days before publishing was democratized by blogging.

The blog posts are directed to consumers, business people, in-house counsel, practicing lawyers, judges, law porofessors, law students, law librarians, legal industry suppliers and legal innovators and entrepreneurs.

These posts are regularly cited by other bloggers, mainstream publishers and presenters.

Perhaps more significantly these posts are cited by courts and lawyers in submissions to the court. Not as primary law, but as secondary law, just as law reviews, journals and treatises are cited. Blogs, for that matter, are replacing law reviews and law journals altogether.

Beyond citations by courts and to courts, we need a history of legal news and commentary to search and call upon in our work to advance the law. The history cannot be tossed.

Perpetual hosting may be done by government or quasi-governmental bodies, such as libraries. I believe the Library of Congress already archives a good number of law blogs.

Private companies, such as LexBlog, with business models, in part supported by archiving and syndicating legal blogs are a good possibility as well. We are in the process of archiving and syndicating legal blogs penned by close to 20,000 legal professionals. I don’t see us tossing blog posts.

Hosting costs, not insignificant, are certainly decreasing.

Winer’s right. Blogs need to be archived online for perpetuity.

  • A reader

    The internet like all technology is not by its nature permanent. Why would you put an archive on something that could be destroyed with one swipe of a switch?

    • What you say makes sense on the face of it, but the law is based on precedent. That precedent has moved from print to digital, thus the need for archiving.

      • A reader

        I can appreciate that digital is where we’re going, or it’s where we already are. But our ability to conserve what we put online is questionable. Sorry to be an anonymous commenter. I’m a casual reader. I felt like commenting so I did. I want online publication to be more secure and permanent than it already is. I agree with you. I’m just not happy with where it’s at today. Again, I agree with you about preserving law blogs. I just don’t think we know how to do that yet. It’s frustrating.

        • I get the issue of conserving as well. Heck, some law firms will not even let their blogs be archived. They’ll only their blogs to appear on their websites so that all content is read there (accompanying by their marketing). The content will be taken down if the blogger leaves the firm.

  • randtke

    Primary law is so, so important. Even years later, discovery rule can make it to where you HAVE TO go back and get that primary law from the past. Secondary law, I’m not so sure. It’s not binding. It didn’t necessarily go through a screening process. Laws go through a sausage making of sorts and get approved by the legislature – formal selection process. Rules go through a notice and comment process – formal selection process. Publications can have lots of process (peer review), or practically no process (and individual’s blog), and even minimal uniqueness and low quality (posts on a firm blog aimed primarily at search engine optimization).

    What you seem to be doing with LexBlog is hosting (mirroring? versus hosting and having the same platform show up at two URLs but content is only stored in one platform then served to 2 domains?) some blogs, and saying LexBlog values a long term focus. Any mirrored content is a huge step forward (but are you mirroring or hosting?), and there’s a long term focus until LexBlog gets acquihired. Even if an acquihire never happens, here’s the major things to deal with: First, there’s got to be a quality filter. It has been the case before that a journal has reprinted something published elsewhere, because the content was just so spot on. For example, an email to a listserv, a post to an online forum, or a blog post might turn into an invited paper. If the culture shifted to make that the norm, then that puts good quality blog posts in a better place for long term existence. Hint, hint, to law journals. Second, there’s got to be a quality filter. So much content out there is by search engine optimization farms and repetitive and just clutter. I am talking fluffy fluff repeated from something generic, or maybe a firm reposts the entire state administrative code as a series of blog posts all cross linking so they get that link juice. That massive amount of repetitive content shouldn’t be preserved. Third, there’s got to be an actual long term path to keeping material available. I really think any single publisher or platform always will be acquired or merge and the content won’t be available from that source anymore. For a timeframe, less than 10 years seems totally predictable as a lifespan for a hosting project. I don’t think any one company can hold information indefinitely in the future, but rather a single company can gather the info today, sift it, then send it out to multiple places and more copies increases the chance of a copy surviving longer. I don’t know how to sell that to investors.

    If you reply me, can you talk about how you bring a blog mirror into LexBlog and how the permissions work. I am not seeing Creative Commons licenses on the blogs I’ve clicked into on your platform. I am so, so curious whether you are getting licenses and how that works, because that’s a big problem with preserving a broad spectrum of digital content. Is every blog in LexBlog also hosted by LexBlog and the authors pay you a fee to run the software and host content and LexBlog is the only platform hosting the content unless the authors put it somewhere else?

    • Have you used secondary with a judge at trial court level. It’s quite influential (not prescedent) in the arguments made, analogies etc.i have also found the arguments made helpful in framing my arguments.

      People way over value human editing of something ala a law reviewer. Broad social interaction on net can measure influence as well as, if not better than peers and students. Think to the future of machines plus people.

      Terms of service is how LexBlog is displaying publications.