John Joergensen, a reference librarian at Rutgers-Camden, writes about the on-going issue of authentication of digital legal resources on Cornell’s VoxPopuLII. His discussion touches on several different issues entwined in the authentication bundle, including the idea of reputation and “perceived trustworthiness” that the all too few commercial vendors enjoy and how to gain similar ground for free resources. His post reminded me of a lecture that Bob Berring gave to our Advanced Legal Research in which he likened these veteran vendors to Tinkerbell. The legal community believes in their veracity and authenticity and so they continue to dominate the digital landscape. It’s high time we created room for more Tinkerbells to spread their online legal resource dust.
At present, AALL’s Electronic Legal Information Access and Citation Committee (ELIACC) is working on an update to their 2007 State-by-State Report on Authentication of Online Legal Resources. As a participant in the update, I was asked to re-evaluate that state of West Virginia’s online primary legal materials. In their case, while the courts and legislature provide free access to their decisions and bills/laws, they also explicitly state these versions are unofficial and no overt steps toward authentication are apparent. I am interested to see how the terrain may have changed for other states. Stay tuned…..