July 14, 2010
The Nineteenth Edition of the Bluebook: Changes from the Eighteenth Edition
Posted by Christine Hurt

Oh, I feel old. My first article discussed the "new" Seventeenth Edition of the Bluebook and compared it to the "brand-new" ALWD Citation Manual.  Then, and it seems like just a few weeks ago, I wrote another article discussing the Eighteenth Edition when it was first published.  Now, the Nineteenth Edition is out, but I'm just giving it a blog post.  Am I that old, tired and lame?  Sort of, but mostly the changes from the Eighteenth to the Nineteenth don't warrant an article.  A blog post will do.

As with any new edition, there are deleted examples, new examples, re-numberings for no apparent reason, new cross-references and deleted cross-references.  Strangely, a tradition of using a current student note as an example for the "Student-Written Law Review Materials" seems to have ended.  Previously, each edition had a new example, authored coincidentally by someone working on the new edition.  I thought this was kind of a sweet tradition, but in the new edition, there are no new examples.  Maybe there's a story there, but I don't know it.  However, the bulk of the changes relate predictably to the question of citing to electronic resources, something the Bluebook has been struggling with for some time.

The Sixteenth Edition was published in 1995-6, and contained Rule 17.3.3, which provided how to cite to a website.  The Seventeenth Edition, in 2000, created a new Rule 18, which contained a set of rules on citing to electronic resources.  As I wrote in 2001:

This rule is much welcomed, but it does read as a preliminary attempt to address this burgeoning issue. This rule even provides a disclaimer, which reads like a red "DRAFT" stamp: "Due to the characteristics of and attitudes toward electronic and nonprint sources, this rule offers guidelines for citation to these sources while leaving room for change."

The Eighteenth Edition completely reworked the set of rules under Rule 18, but problems still persisted. The Nineteenth Edition has taken another stab at it by reworking Rule 18 again and inserting a new "Electronic Media and Online Sources" rule to each other substantive rule (Rule 10 Cases, Rule 11 Constitutions, Rule 12 Statutes, etc.).

The first thing I wondered about was if the new edition would keep the Bluebook's bias toward printed materials. Yes. A new sentence in Rule 18.2 reads "The Bluebook requires the use and citation of traditional printed sources when available, unless there is a digital copy of the source available that is authenticated, official, or an exact copy of the printed source, as described in rule 18.2.1"  So, what is an authenticated source?  A source with "an encryption-based authentication method, such as digital signatures and public key infrastructure."  That last part seems to mean if there is a government certificate stating its unaltered, that's ok.  So, this is never going to help me.  What is an official version?  A source that a legislature has designated as official.  The next sentence almost sounds like this could help:  "Some online publishers similarly make a distinction as to whether the document has been approved by, contributed by, or harvested from an official source by the content originator, designating such a document "official."  So, perhaps if Westlaw takes a state statute from the official printed version, that's official?  Why can't you give me an example, Nineteenth Edition?  Finally, we have exact copy of the printed source, which is "one that is an unaltered copy of the printed source in a widely used format that preserves pagination and other attributes of the printed work (such as Adobe's portable document format, or "PDF"."  The example given is a case citation.  So, if I open the case on Westlaw in PDF, I can cite to it, but not if I open it in HTML.  Ok, whatever.

I can also, according to Rule 18.2.2 cite to an Internet source if the traditional printed source, "such as a letter or unpublished dissertation, exists but cannot be found or is so obscure that it is practically unavailable."  OK, but what about things in-between official versions and unavailable things.  Like Wall Street Journal articles and U.S. legislation?  Is the Library of Congress' Thomas website "official"?  Lots of guessing here.

And of course, every five years we have new things to cite.  So, we have a new "YouTube" rule in Rule 18.6 Films, Broadcasts, and Noncommercial Video Materials and a new podcast rule in Rule 18.7 Audio Recordings.  Also, emails and listserv postings (former Rule 18.2.4) are now so passe that they can't be in hip Rule 18 anymore.  They are relegated back to where the belong, with unpublished materials in between letters and interviews (new Rule 17.2.4).

Finally, what about blogs???  Readers with Lisbeth Salander-like memories may recall that I have ranted about the Eighteenth Edition's Rule 18.2.4 before.  Up to now, this was the rule that purported to cover citing to a blog post.  The Eighteenth Edition's format called for (1) the author's name, but only if the blog had more than one author; (2) the title of the blog; (3) the URL; and (4) the date, with timestamp.  So, a citation to the Glom would provide an author's name, but a citation to a solo blog would not.  Why the author's name was less important than the timestamp seemed strange, as was the omission of a blogpost title.  I suggested a different format, one analogous to a journal article:   "If I were to conjure up a citation for a blog post, I would be concerned with (1) the author; (2) the title of the post; (3) the title of the blog; (4) the URL and (5) the date."  (Apparently, our law review had this format cited to them as the "Hurt Rule," something which brings me an inordinate amount of joy.)

So, did the Nineteenth Edition adopt the Hurt Rule?  Pretty much.  Rule 18.2.2 calls for (1) the author's name (no qualifications); (2) Title (of the location of the page being viewed); (3) Main page title; (4)Titles for pages other than the main page, if relevant (such as the title of a comment); (5) Date and time; and (6) URL.  So, I call that a victory.

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