Welcome to The Blogbook, a self-dubbed \"Open Source Law Project.\" These postings are intended to facilitate discussions around the technical, stylistic and ethical components of legal blogging. If you are a legal blogger (or would like to become one), please consider and weigh in on some of these issues.
Law Student Blog Cited in MGM v. Grokster Briefs
Outragedmoderates.org, a political blog edited by St. John's law student Thad Anderson, was cited in two amicus briefs submitted to SCOTUS in the MGM v. Grokster case.
The first amicus brief, submitted by the American Civil Liberties Union cites Anderson's blog twice. On page 12, outragedmoderates.org appears in a discussion of legitimate non-infringing uses of P2P file sharing networks. The format of the citation is as follows:
(discussing the outragedmoderates.org website, which contains hundreds of government and court documents and makes them available for download through peer-to-peer networks).
Format: Post-sentence parenthetical citation that includes the blog's main URL and a brief description of the blog.
Second citation: See http://www.outragedmoderates.org/HowtoUseP2PNetworks.html (last visited Feb. 24, 2005).
Format: Post-sentence citation that includes the url to the particular post at issue, as well as a parenthetical "last vistited" clause.
Eugene Volokh has created an analytical framework to understand every coffeehouse lawyer's favorite fall back argument: the "slippery slope."
No longer will "but it's a slippery slope!" suffice to end the debate and turn the subject to more profitable ones such as sports or the opposite sex. Instead, the reply will come "but what kind of slippery slope? Judicial-legislative? Judicial-judicial?"
But really, in all seriousness, Volokh proves his brilliance once again. I mean, c'mon "slippery slope inefficiency"(?!). The man is a marvel - he can think up, research and write this stuff while blogging and teaching classes.
Before seeking a declaratory judgment that "This Land" does not infringe Guthrie's original copyrighted work, Jib Jab responded less formally to Ludlow Music. In a letter, Jib Jab noted, "It is enough that the parody here is readily and objectively perceptible, as demonstrated by the fact that a variety of commentators already perceive it clearly."
I've posted this entry to the "Citations" category because I believe that figuring out the standards/formats issues is the first and perhaps most crucial step in the universalization of the blog movement.
For a quick primer on what RSS and Atom are, you can quickly read my short article on the subject, here.
The Case: Suboh v. Borgioli, No. 00-10396
The Court: United States District Court, District Of Massachusetts
The Judge: Chief Judge William G. Young
The Blog: Volokh Conspiracy
As reported in Robert Ambrogi's LawSites, the first direct quote from a blog has appeared in the body of a judicial opinion. The blog quote consists of satirical lyrics written to the tune, "Happy Together" by the Turtles.
In terms of blog citation, Judge Young uses the minimalist method, and provides only the direct URL to Volokh Conspiracy. No direct mention is made to the blog's title (see page 2 of the opinion). This is an interesting approach, because in many cases, a URL will contain the cited weblog's title.
Technically, this is not Volokh Conspiracy's first appearance in a judicial opinion. Volokh and several other superblogs were cited in the footnotes of Batzel v. Smith, a Ninth Circuit, U.S. Court of Appeals decision.
The recent dissenting opinion in Batzel v. Smith, Cremers has provided some valuable and practical lessons in blog citation. As Batzel is perhaps the first federal appellate case to actually cite to blogs, it underscores the need to address formal issues like citation.
The opinion author uses a simple BLOG TITLE, BLOG URL approach.
From footnote 3 on Page 17008:
"To mention a few popular and respected legal blogs, see, for example, How Appealing, www.appellateblog.blogspot.com, SCOTUSBlog, www.goldsteinhowe.com/blog/index.cfm, The Volokh Conspiracy, volokh.com and Lessig Blog, www.lessig.org/blog/. The development argument is likely to hold true in other industries as well, including politics, www.instapundit.com, and software architecture, www.corfield.org/ blog."
You'll notice that no author names are cited. Presumably, if the opinion did actually quote a blog, the author of the post would be listed. Additionally, the Court could provide a TrackBack/Permalink, screenshot, or archive.org link to the particular quote.
As you keep adding footnotes, increment the hrefs and names by one, so that the subsequent footnote, "cite2" should reciprocate "footnote2".
Some folks may find the hyperlinked citation text confusing, so you can put a "Return to article" link after the cite like this.
Let us now turn toward making the  look more like 1 by using the
<sup> tag and in-line style directives.
The in-line style directive is for people like me who do not feel like writing a cascading stylesheet (CSS) file to cover every possible representation of text that they may want to use. It is usually for "seat of the pants" formatting. In a way, it defeats the purpose of CSS, which was mostly to avoid declaring lame <font> tags every time you had some text to format. However, for our purposes, it will work quite nicely.
In-line styles tcan be embedded in pretty much any other type of tag, and it serves as a property with nested property/value sets. You do not need to understand that last sentence. What you do need to understand, however, is that we are going to use this tag to make our superscripts look right.
Let's now replace the brackets around the number "1" with the following:
This gives the result of a supersript such as this3. The font size is diminished to 10px (assuming your normal text is 12px), and the line height reduced to zero, in order to minimize the spacing issues that are often created when using superscripts in html.
You may want to do something like get rid of the underline on the footnote reference, or change the color of the hyperlinked text. Perhaps you want to give it a mouseover effect. This can all be acieved with a stylesheet, or with in-line CSS as described above. There are many resources to using css on the web. A recently well-written one is located here.
If, for some reason, clicking on the links doesn't take you to different points in this entry, it may be because you have a large monitor running at high resolution. Try reducing your browser window until it only displays a dozen lines or so, and then click on the hyperlinks. Since many articles are both lengthy and rife with footnotes, the effect will be more dramatic -- and of greater utility.
In this post, May It Please The Court brings up many good points about citing unpublished opinions. Unpublished opinions do not have the same precedential value as published opinions, obviously, but they continue to be cited and relied upon.
When blogs begin to get cited - as they inevitably will - for persuasive authority in a specialized area of law or simple guidance to a new or unknown area (much as treatises or scholarly articles are cited now) will they be considered of lesser value than "published" materials?
Are there any shared ideas/lessons or parallels here? Or is it a stretch to even try to connect the two?
i) The more precisely you quote the blog, the more detailed/precise your attribution should be.
ii) As the need to verify the attribution rises, the more detailed/precise your attribution should be.
Note: because many blogs and online pages are transitory (they may be available on the Web for a short period of time), it may be wise to include a printed screen shot of the blog entry as an appendix, or cite to a semi-permanent online archive URL of the blog, such as archive.org.
Determining which type of blog attribution to use depends on: 1) the context; and 2) medium that you're using.
Context can range from informal to formal, silly to serious. Additionally, determining the correct method of attribution depends what you want to credit: an idea, a comment to an entry, or an exact passage.
The medium factor is farily open ended. Print publication, online publication, judicial brief, academic paper, business research, and blog are just some of the available media where attributing a blog may be necessary.
A few examples:
a) an required academic research paper for a law school course would probably use a formalized citation attribution to a quoted blog;
b) a blog posting about another blog discussion would probably use an informal link and/or mention of the blog's title;
c) a legal brief submitted to the court would definitely use formal citation.
There are lots of ways to credit a blog or online posting. Attribution ranges from an informal mention to a formal citation.
Some of the means of attribution:
Hypertext link to the page;
A mention of the URL (non-clickable);
A mention of the blog's title, author, date and/or entry heading;
A formal citation that includes blog title, author, date, entry heading, and URL;
A screen shot of the blog page and/or its source code.
There's no question that lawyers, judges, journalists, students and researchers will at some point need to cite a blog or other online information. Given the formal nature of legal citation, it is important to create some standard ways that this can be done.