Proof of the Power of Permalinks

QUESTION

What do avid bicyclists and handgun owners have in common?

ANSWER

Probably more in common than not. Two things are a need to know the law, and a desire to discuss it.

Bicycle traffic law discussion on BikePortland.org

Bicycle law discussion on BikePortland.org

So I conclude that the ability to find, read, and share the law online is a good thing. It might even be the beginning of a more transparent and democratic era. These screenshots show people participating in exactly this way, who were helped out by this website. (Awesome!)

Forum discussion about concealed handgun license application procedures

Concealed handgun license discussion

This all might look easy, e.g., “So just make a website, and people can link to it … what’s the big deal?” In reality, though, it’s difficult to pull off, and so the status quo is, it doesn’t happen.

Engineering a working permalink system can be tricky

Engineering a working permalink system can be tricky

Just look around the web: most pages don’t have permalinks (“Persistent URLs”, “PURLs”) that people can use. And often, even if a web page does have a URL that seems good for linking, there are other show-stoppers: it may not stay working. Or if it does stay working, then it may not contain the same content in a few months’ time.

Discussion about landlord/tenant law on Reddit.

Discussion about landlord/tenant law on Reddit

Some great people have taken the story further, writing lighthearted web pages (Tim Berners-Lee), and creating videos (Citability.org).

Family law discussion on Reddit

Family law discussion on Reddit

Christmas present for New York: permalinks to the state laws

(Hanukkah fell during finals this year, so there was no way I could get it done in time.)

Up until now, authors had to resort to tortured instructions when linking to N.Y. laws.  Here’s how the Citizen Media Law Project does it in their excellent document, Forming a Corporation in New York:

. . . You can find the New York statute relating to the organizational meeting at N.Y. Bus. Corp. Law § 404 (link is to entire code, you need to click on the Business Corporation section, then choose Article 4 and locate the specific provision). . . .

Oy. Reminds me of the problems linking to Thomas documents.  The issue here is that the state of New York doesn’t create permalinks to the statutes.  I gave this a lot of thought, and created permalinks that look like this:

weblaws.org/states/new_york/statutes/n.y._business_corporation_law_sec._404

Remaining Issues

I wasn’t quite sure exactly what format these should take.  The current scheme balances these competing concerns:

  • People blog and write web pages with many different citation formats:
    • A scheme that follows the Bluebook would start with N.Y. Bus. Corp. Law § 404. I saw this used by law review blog posts and the Citizen Media Law document, above.
    • I found a state source that would write NY Business Corporation Law 404
    • I found one law professor who’d write the equivalent of NY Business Corporation Law Section 404
    • I found another who’d write NY Business Corporation Law sec. 404
  • The URL is an interface between the website and search engines and web services, not just web authors.
  • I’m unsure about how often (1) the consolidated laws are updated and (2) how often the state’s website is updated.  I’ll add a date/revision notation to the permalink in a backwards-compatible way when I nail this down.

So the scheme above is what I settled on.  Why can’t every state be like wonderful, efficient Oregon? We’ve got ORS 163.095, and the Bluebook/ALWD Or. Rev. Stat. § 163.095, and that’s it, really.

EDIT: I’ve discovered the Tanbook.