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Rule 18.2.1(b)(ii)

for purposes such as criticism, comment, … scholarship, or research (17 U.S.C. 107)

Earlier today, I began a semi-serious live tweet of my reading of the new rules concerning digital sources in 20th edition of The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation®. (Our copies at UNC Law Library arrived this afternoon.) And while the editors are still claiming copyright protection for their work, my little show got some attention, and serious law librarians really do want to know what has changed. So here, I present a particular new rule, 18.2.1(b)(ii) for criticism, comment, scholarship, and research purposes. Perhaps we can puzzle out the Bluebook’s transformation on the way it privileges print. Ah, and for an excellent working list of “diffs” between the 20th edition and the 19th, see Janelle Beitz’s Google Doc, which expands upon the new edition’s preface (tip o’ the hat to my friends at Duke Law Library for the heads up.)

Here is the new rule, which I think shows some much-needed sense on medium neutrality:

(ii) Online sources with print characteristics. If an online source shares the characteristics of a print source such that it could be fully cited according to another rule in The Bluebook, the citation should be made as if to the print source and the URL appended directly to the end of the citation, even if it is unknown whether the cited information is available in print. (Latter emphasis mine.)

Examples of this follow. Then, we get a definition of what it means to “share the characteristics of a print source.”

an online source must be a version permanently divided into pages with permanent page numbers, as in a PDF, and have the elements that characterize a given print source, such as a volume number (for law review articles and the like) or publication date (for magazine articles and the like).

And finally, the editors then write that

for purposes of citation style it does not matter whether [the] source has in fact been published in print

In all, this seems to be an extension of what I always felt the spirit of the old 18.2.1 was, except that now it doesn’t seem to require an extensive search to find the print volume of a material if it is available online in permanently paginated form. Whether this is truly a “print characteristic” is a matter of debate, of course, but some movement on the topic is better than none.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to return to my careful reading of The Bluebook!