Law, College of


Date of this Version



23 Trends L. Libr. Mgmt. & Tech. 7 (2013)


Much can be said about how libraries are adapting and new ways that we can continue to adapt to the rise in importance of digital resources and services. But there is a unique challenge that law libraries face that this article will attempt to address: the problem of authenticating digital legal materials. This necessity of authenticating legal materials has been articulated many times. However, there may actually be no need for authentication at all.

The question of authentication is a very important one to answer because law libraries have the responsibility of providing accurate versions of primary legal materials. It is thought that since digital materials can be altered and distributed so easily, there is increased danger that inaccurate versions of judicial opinions and legislative materials will be distributed to lawyers and lay people who will be confused over which versions are accurate, and therefore reliable. On its face, this is a very grave concern. Imagine that someone with an axe to grind comes into possession of a judicial decision that hurts his/her case and that this party decides to simply re-write the decision so that it comes out in his/her favor. Or, in a less nefarious scenario, suppose that an information service provider is simply sloppy and publishes on its website or service an inaccurate version of the decision. Obviously, in either case, the party who uses the variant version of the opinion can be in a very embarrassing or difficult position because he/she can be sanctioned for using or relying on an inaccurate or false version of the opinion. This is also bad for libraries that rely on service providers or publishers for accurate information to make available to patrons, who rely on libraries to possess accurate copies of these materials.