Does the term “Bluebooking” send chills down your spine? Tired of worrying about all those commas and whether they are italicized or not? Do you despise long strings of in-text citations?
Well, then here’s some potentially good news.
In case you missed it last week, a law professor at NYU sent a letter on behalf of Public.Resource.org challenging the copyright status of The Bluebook. Research conducted by Professor Sprigman and Public.Resource.org indicated that the copyright on the 10th edition of the “Stickler’s Bible” had never been renewed, meaning that the 10th edition is in the public domain.
Additionally, they are researching the status of the current edition and arguing that it is also in the public domain. This post on LawGives blog summarizes their two key assertions. First, since many courts require use of The Bluebook, its contents have thus been adopted as an “edict of government,” placing the contents in the public domain. Second, even though the 19th edition is much larger than the 10th, many portions of the 19th were basically unchanged from the 10th and therefore no longer protected by copyright. Based on these arguments, Public.Resource.org is developing a public domain version of The Bluebook.
The challenge to The Bluebook raises a larger issue of whether any legal citation standards should be copyrighted.
Of course, as Above the Law points out, since basically every lawyer needs a copy, The Bluebook is a “cash cow” and it’s doubtful that The Harvard Law Review Association will take this challenge lying down. On the other hand, as ATL asks, does it even really matter? Don’t most people rely on the citations provided by online research databases? Who really has time to worry about all the tiny details, as long as the reader can easily locate your sources?
Don’t forget, there are other free sources of legal citations already, such as Basic Legal Citation provided by the LII at Cornell.
What do you think, time to permanently shelve The Bluebook?
As a side note, this is my last post as an active Fellow. I’m starting a new job soon as a full time librarian in Phoenix. If you’re curious, you can follow my continuing (mis)adventures on Twitter @sticksandstacks.