I Got 99 Publishing Problems and Copyright Is One of Them: Archiving Top Law Journals

by Raizel Liebler

Editor’s Note: This is a new series based around common copyright and publishing problems. Hopefully, this post will change policies of some of these journals — and therefore the information will be updated at least yearly. Earlier posts focused on top law journals and top intellectual property journals.

Considering that much of the scholarship that is cited in law is from top law journals, how well do these journals do in making their archives available to the public? Some may say that these journals are available in databases, including HeinOnline, and others, but making student-edited law reviews available to the public free of charge helps everyone better understand the law and demonstrate what legal academics do. Accessibility to law review articles is key to demonstrating the continuing value of legal scholarship.

I reviewed 44 journals — the top law reviews overall (according to the Washington and Lee listing), the top intellectual property journals, plus a few additional journals that specifically state that the author’s retain copyright in their articles. I looked retrospectively — how far back their online archives on their own website or an institutional repository went. How did these journals do?

Of the journals looked at, these are the few gold star recipients — the journals that have a free online archive back to page 1 of their first volume plus authors retaining copyright:

  • Berkeley Technology Law Journal
  • Duke Law & Technology Review
  • Duke Law Journal
  • Hofstra Law Review
  • Northwestern Journal of Technology and Intellectual Property
  • U.C. Davis Law Review
  • Washington and Lee Law Review

Yup, that’s it.

These are all of the top journals that provide a free archive back to page 1:

A special mention of both Duke and Fordham — which are the only law schools with both a top general and top IP specialty journal with the full archive available for free. 

Offering an online free archive back to the first page doesn’t specifically relate to the ranking of the journal/school, considering that several of the top twenty general law reviews have a complete free archive: University of Pennsylvania Law Review (#5/journal); Fordham Law Review (#14); Cornell Law Review (#15); Notre Dame Law Review (#16); and Duke Law Journal (#19). On the other hand, The Georgetown Law Journal (#6) has the shallowest backfile studied — only available online back to 2012, highly surprising considering the depth of the Georgetown Law Scholarly Commons which doesn’t include this law review.

The difficulty in providing a stable archive on the journal homepage is also evident, considering frequent new websites and lost redirects. For example, Vanderbilt Law Review presently makes available its archive back to 2009, but the Internet Archive shows that last year, Vanderbilt made the archives available back to 2001.

The question raised at this point is likely: What does this matter, if these aren’t the articles people are looking for and citing? The next post in this series will focus on top cited articles and their availability.

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