The WayBack Machine as legal evidence

For those who haven’t heard of it, the WayBack Machine is an excellent service (offered by the Internet Archive) which lets you see exactly what a website looked like at a particular point in the past.

Have a play around, it’s free to use and offers around 487 billion saved webpages.

wayback machine

So what could this massive archive be used for? Historical analysis perhaps, cultural interpretations… Yes, but also – it’s been held as useful and accurate evidence in a US Court of Law.

So, for example, if a company states something misleading on their website (which you rely on to some detriment) and then they delete it and try to claim they never said such a thing – you can show the court an old version of the website which as been neatly stored away for you on the WayBack Machine! It’s also useful in areas of intellectual property and copyright law.

A great analysis of the case, and how it fits within the Australian context, has been written by Adrian Chang on the Allen’s IP blog.

As a law librarian, I love seeing archives and records being used in a legal context. As technology keeps advancing the law will rely more and more on resources like this I’m sure. The internet is so fluid and easily changeable, and inherently unreliable, as well as unfathomably vast, that having the ability to  look back into webpages like this is incredibly useful.


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