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.