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Law Library News

AALL Annual Meeting Roundup: Authentication and Preservation of Online Legal Material

Posted by Joan Bellistri on September 2, 2010

“It’s all online.”  We hear that often in the law library here.  The problem is that it is not true.  The truth is that “it” comes and goes quite quickly.  What was online yesterday may not be there today.  Other problems with  “it’s all online” is that it is difficult to be sure that information found online is even a reliable source.

These are issues addressed in the program, “A Vision for the Future: Authenticated and Official Online Legal Resources.”  Mary Alice Baish, executive director of  AALL’s Government Relations Office, began the program by reviewing AALL’s vision: “to ensure equitable and permanent public access to authentic legal information.”  Through advocacy efforts AALL strives to “ensure the authentication and preservation of official digital legal resources” and AALL will advocate that government information must be in the public domain, and that information on government Web sites must be permanently available to the public at no charge.”  Mary Alice outlined components of a solution:  “Protect the official original as produced by the official publisher, without changing the file in any way and regardless of file type, protect the official copy made publicly available, and have easy an easy method for public to verify and warrant the chain of custody between the official original and the official copy, and have an easy for public to verify.”

Mary Alice reported that AALL State Working Groups are on the lookout for attempts to eliminate print and replace with online only without a means of authentication and for preservation for permanent public access.  These State Working Groups are taking on a large national project as well: the National Inventory of Primary Legal Information.  When completed information such as cost, copyright, official status, permanent public access, digital authentication and preservation will be known for all of the states, counties and municipalities in the U.S.

Handouts for the program included AALL issue briefs which contain more information on these topics of significance to AALL.  “AALL Leadership on the Authentication and Preservation of Online Legal Resources” and “AALL State Working Groups to Ensure Access to Electronic Legal Information” can be found at http://www.aallnet.org/aallwash/reports.asp

The program included an update on the “2009-10 Updates to State-by- State Report of Online Legal Information” and the status of the draft of the Uniform State Law “Authentication and Preservation of State Electronic Legal Materials Act.”  (Since the meeting Joyce Janto reported in the July AALL E-Newsletter that the Committee of the Whole of the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL) accepted the draft on July 15.)

At the GD-SIS program, “FDLP Law Libraries in the 21st Century” I learned of the preservation efforts of the Chesapeake Digital Preservation Group (www.legalinfoarchive.org) “to preserve our digital legal heritage for generations to come.”  Already they have found that as time progresses more URLs are disappearing at a great rate illustrating the urgency of this project.  It is comforting to  now that our Maryland State Law Library is a member of this preservation group and that the MSLL is preserving Maryland’s digital legal information.

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