How the Harvard National Security Journal Uses the API

Guest post from Harvard Law J.D. student Aaron Marks:

As the Online Editor for the Harvard National Security Journal, I am the go-to person for many of the Journal’s technical questions.  This semester I was able to put my technical skills to use by implementing a new tool that uses the Perma API.  The National Security Journal’s fall issue (out now!) contains several hundred weblinks.  We wanted to use Perma so that the content at those links would be permanently accessible.  But we did not want to manually create Perma archives for hundreds of URLs, which could take some time.

On a hunch, I suspected that Perma might have an API that would enable us to programmatically generate these links.  It turned out that not only did Perma have an API, but it was surprisingly simple to setup and use.  In just a few hours, I wrote a Ruby application that could import a spreadsheet of URLs, generate Perma archives for those URLs, and output a new spreadsheet that includes the URLs for each new Perma archive. 

In addition to programming with the Perma API, the experience let me interact with the Perma support team.  This happened when I discovered a bug: on creating a new Perma archive, our custom archive title would revert, after a few seconds, back to the default title that Perma generates when a custom title is not submitted.  Luckily the Perma support team was quite responsive after I reported the bug.  In fact, they resolved the problem before the Journal published our latest issue.

Although I was a software engineer before coming to law school, I have not coded much in the past three years and so my programming skills were somewhat rusty.  Happily, the API was very user-friendly and easily enabled our Journal to programmatically generate Perma archives.  I would recommend trying the Perma API to integrate Perma archives into your publication, website, software application, or anything else that links to web-content that you want to be preserved.

PS – Special thanks to Brett and Rebecca from Perma who helped fix the bug that I discovered!

Aaron Marks is a third-year J.D. student at Harvard Law School.  He is currently the Online Editor of the Harvard National Security Journal.



Link Rot for Lawyers: a Prodigious Problem

Link rot is already known to be a large – and growing – issue in  *court opinions*, *legal scholarship* and in many *other forms of scholarship*. With, we’re helping courts and scholars prevent link rot in their work.

But lately we’ve seen a surge in usage among law firms: in the past two years, links have been included in over 600 cases in both state and federal court.  And we’ve heard from many law firms interested in understanding how link rot affects them and how they might use Perma to tackle the problem (*newly available* to law firms and other commercial entities!).

Which led us to ask: is link rot a problem for law firms? In a nutshell, the answer is yes, link rot is a significant problem for law firms, particularly in court filings and marketing materials.

Link Rot in Court Filings

As the quantity and availability of online resources increase, linked citations to these materials has expanded across a wide variety of fields, including the court filings made by lawyers.  These citations are key to the documents they are included in, providing vital supporting information for the arguments being made and even replacing many print resources.  But the evolving nature of the internet means these sources do not retain the stability of printed material and will change over time.

Broken links in court filings not only no longer support the argument or position they originally did, but also frustrate courts trying to interact with them as the information they need no longer exists.

To get a sense of the scope of the problem, we recently conducted a quick review of court filings made in the last five years by three of the largest law firms in the U.S. Of the briefs containing links:

  • over 80% had at least one broken link,
  • on average, these briefs contained around six broken links each, and
  • one brief contained 17 broken links.

We also found that nearly 30% of all links that did still link to a page no longer displayed the referenced material, a.k.a. ‘reference rot’ or ‘content drift.’

Additionally, we found evidence that link rot can be very fast-acting: all of the briefs we reviewed were filed within the last five years, with one brief – filed just months ago in May 2017, containing 12 links – had roughly 75% of those links already broken.

So what can lawyers do about link rot?

This review of a small sample of briefs is hardly scientific, but highlights the problem and confirms that practicing lawyers, no less than courts and legal scholars, should be taking steps to link rot. was devised and designed for this express purpose! Anyone can create a free account and make up to 10 Perma Links a month, and we’re now offereing a paid option for lawyers and law firms: visit our law firm signup page >here<, or shoot us an email at for more information.

Perma in the News: American Libraries Magazine got a recent shout-out in a December article for American Libraries Magazine about the importance of libraries in the Internet Age.

We  highly value our relationships with libraries across the country as they are key partners in our work because, as the author points out, “Libraries respect history. Web pages are ephemeral, and link rot is a real problem. The content of library collections is much more stable.”

To get started using yourself, sign up here!

Recent Perma Updates

A series of small updates to Perma over the last few weeks have included:

  • Updated password requirements to enhance security
  • Some minor style changes to the user interface for viewing private links
  • Several small bug fixes and an update to Django 1.11

Try out yourself at!

Recent Perma Updates

Recent updates to Perma include:

  • The new library sign-up form includes an address field, which allows us to display registrar libraries’ location on a map
  • A better user experience when viewing a Perma linked PDF on mobile
  • Improvements to the password reset function

Try out yourself at!


Looking Forward to the New Semester!

As of November 2016, was a fully approved product supported by the Harvard University Libraries, including the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and the various Harvard graduate schools. We’re looking forward to welcoming students back as they return to campus in the next couple of weeks,  and helping them preserve their work this semester!

To find out more about how Perma can help your faculty and students, visit!

Try out Perma for yourself by creating an account!

Fall Semester is Coming- Let’s Get Ready to Perma!

You can feel it in the air – the Fall Semester is right around the corner! Amidst the falling leaves, the backpacks filling with books, and the stress beginning to mount, you may be scheduling trainings for new student journal editors. No matter what your journal’s organizational structure and how many cite checkers you have on staff, the Perma Team is here to help you bring on new users and to remind your existing staff members what Perma can do for you!

Here are our top 5 tips for journals using Perma:

#1 – Any user affiliated with your journal’s organization on Perma can add new users. You can use whatever hierarchy you prefer for managing your staff members.

#2 – Users can be affiliated with more than one organization – if you have staff members who are cite checking for more than one journal, they can choose from the affiliated with’ drop down menu when they are creating their Perma Links.

#3 – The ‘affiliate link with’ drop down menu gives users the option to create Perma Links associated with their journal(s), or themselves. Each user can create 10 personal links per month.

#4 – Demonstrating Perma at a journal training is easy – we recommend using – a neutral subject page that we’ve found renders beautifully for demoing.

 #5 – Feel free to organize your folders however you see fit! Some journals organize by issue and author name, others create folders for each journal staff member. Do whatever works for your editing process!

We also have training documentation available at

If you have any questions, reach out to your institution’s Registrar User using our contact form:

Happy Fall!

Ilya Kremer’s machine-readable list of archives

Webrecorder creator, LIL fellow and Rhizome collaborator Ilya Kremer has recently created a machine-readable list of public archiving services on GitHub:

The purpose of this is to “highlight, and help promote the sizable (and growing list!) of publicly accessible web archives all over the world, in a distributed and democratic way,’ as well as “to encourage interoperability and interconnectedness between different web archives.” In other words, both let people know about the range of archives and archiving services out there, and to encourage partnership between the archiving services (such as is found in the Memento framework).

Thanks Ilya! Be sure to check out his Perma-included list on GitHub!

Perma in the News: D-Lib Magazine

The May/June 2017 issue of D-Lib Magazine features an article by Library Innovation Lab Director Kim Dulin on the Lab’s IMLS National Digital Platform grant to further develop the service and what we have accomplished in the first year!  The grant will allow to grow our user base outside the legal community and expand the impact can have on ending link rot.  With this grant, is expanding our outreach to academic institutions and communities beyond the legal sphere, as well as building a framework for private and commercial usage to maintain a free service for public and academic users.

Read the full article here!

Help us fight link rot and sign up your library today!

The Law Library of Congress is Using Perma to Battle Link Rot

Perma is proud to call the Law Library of Congress one of our active, leading users. Charlotte Stitcher, the law library’s managing editor, has implemented since 2015 to fight link and reference rot in Library of Congress publications.  A 2014 internal Law Library of Congress review of law reports published by the Global Legal Research Center (GLRC) found that “a significant number” of footnoted links no longer worked, which fits similar conclusions found by the Harvard Law Review’s own study of link rot in three Harvard journals and U.S. Supreme Court cases.  In their search to find a solution to the link rot problem, the Law Library found, which they officially implemented in October 2015.

Using Perma, the GLRC is able to add archived copies of web pages to the footnotes of all new reports.  A recent example is the GLRC’s November 2016 report on “Genocide, Crimes Against Humanity, and War Crimes Jurisdiction,” which contains an archived link alongside each cited hyperlink.

Get your institution on to and help your patrons and scholars fight link-rot, by signing your library up today!

Law Library of Congress Implements Solution for Link and Reference Rot

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