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Bluebook Citation: Electronic and Audiovisual Sources

Bluebook Quick Reference

B18 (p. 26):  Bluepages Sources and Authorities guide to Internet Sources

Rule 18 (p. 164):  Rule for the Internet, Electronic Media, and other Nonprint Resources

Audiovisual Materials

Rule 18.6 covers citation of films, broadcast television, video sources that have not been broadcasted, and online videos.

Rule 18.7 covers citation of audio materials, including music recordings, recordings of meetings or conferences, and online recordings such as podcasts.

The Basics

The Bluebook states that you should cite to traditional print resources over electronic resources.  However, there are instances when the electronic version is acceptable:

  • When it is an authenticated copy (encrypted, etc.)
  • When it is an official copy (i.e. Government version)
  • When it is an exact copy (i.e. PDFs)

Also, there are three basic rules for using an internet source when citing:

  1. If the source is one of the three acceptable types (authenticated, official, or exact copy).
  2. If you are using the source as a parallel citation (generally done when the internet source provides improved access to the information).
  3. When it is a direct citation (when the information only exists in a digital format).

The various forms of internet sources and their citation guideslines are covered below, but Rule 18.1 proves a useful table for quick reference.

Electronic Databases

Cases

If a case is not published in a reporter, then the Bluebook says that it is acceptable to cite to a database.  Rule 18.3 outlines which cases will fall into this category and how to cite these selected cases.  In your citation you should include:

  • Case name
  • Docket number
  • Database name and identifying number
  • "at" and pinpoint page citation
  • Court name
  • Full date of court decision

[Case name, Docket number, Database name/number, at *page (court Month Day, Year).]

NOTE:  Pinpoint citations in a commercial database will be different than in print, since they use something called "star pagination."  To do a pinpoint cite to a commercial database, you include "at" and the star page in the cite.


Statutes

Rule 18.3 says that statutes cited from an electronic database will look the same as the print citation, except in the date parenthetical.  With citations to print volumes the date of publication of the actual volume is cited, but in electronic databases these statutes are continually updated.  Hence, your date parenthetical for an online statute will include the currentness information provided by the database (ex. "current through 2012 Leg. Sess."), commercial publisher name, and database name in the parentheses.  So, a citation will generally include:

  • Title
  • Abbreviated set name
  • Statute section number
  • Publisher
  • Database name 
  • "Currentness" information

[5 U.S.C. § 555 (West, Westlaw through 2011 Leg. Sess.).]


Legislative Materials

Legislative, administrative, and executive materials are also cited just as their print counterparts are, according to Bluebook Rule 18.3. The only difference is that the name of the database and the identifying numbers are added at the end of the citation, much like a parallel citation.

NOTE:  The Bluebook states that if the name of the database is unclear from it's identifier, include the name parenthetically at the end of the citation.


Secondary Materials

Rule 18.3.4 of the the Bluebook states that you may cite electronic versions of books, periodicals, and other secondary materials as you would the print version as dictated by Rules 15-17. 
 

Parallel Citations

The Bluebook recommends using online sources if the internet resource will improve access to the information.  Rule 18.2.3 states that you should first cite to the print source and then include a parallel citation to the internet source.  The URL of the internet source is generally included.  This applies to all sources covered in the Rules 10-17.

Ex. John Doe, Fables and Follies of Blue Booking, 10 LAW REVIEW 65, 68 (2012), http://www.johndoe.com/articles/archives/lm78winter2001p.65.htm.

Direct Citations

When a source is only published online, or was "born digital," Rule 18.2.2 of the Bluebook states you should cite the most "stable" electronic location you can find.  The citation should include all information that can most clearly direct the reader to the source, and will generally look very similar to a print citation of an article, including:

  • Author (if available)
  • Title
  • Main page title
  • Pagination
  • Publication date (or last updated)
  • URL

Steven Lee Myers, Despite Rights Concerns, U.S. Plans to Resume Egypt Aid, The New York Times (March 15, 2012), http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/16/world/middleeast/us-military-aid-to-egypt-to-resume-officials-say.html?_r=1&hp.