Digital Preservation Overview
State legislatures face critical challenges in preserving digital materials. This site provides background information and tools and resources from NCSL and other organizations working to keep legislative digital records trustworthy, complete and accessible over time.
Last update: August 29, 2013
NCSL is tracking state legislation that would adopt the Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act (UELMA). In 2013, nine states have introduced legislation related to UELMA. In 2012, six states introduced UELMA legislation and two states, California and Colorado, have adopted the act. UELMA was approved in July 2011 by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws and approved in February 2012 by the American Bar Association. Additional resources are available in "Online and Authentic?" in NCSL's State Legislatures magazine, in The Legislative Lawyer and in a post, "Meet My Trustworthy Friend UELMA," from the Library of Congress blog, The Signal, and, from the Center for Technology in Government, Opening Government's Official Legal Materials: Authenticity and Integrity in the Digital World.
NCSL's Legal Services Staff Section's Revisors Project surveyed state revisors' offices and developed a series of charts outlining who publishes the statutes online, who holds the copyright, frequency of publishing, and official versions of the statutes/code.
View presentations, handouts and a podcast from the 2011 Legislative Summit in August 2011, on digital preservation issues, and read more in NCSL's blog, The Thicket.
NCSL's Preserving Legislative Digital Records publication explains the challenges of preserving legislative records in a digital age and provides options, advice, and simple, low-cost tools and preservation practices.
The California Office of Legislative Counsel has developed a White Paper, Authentication of Primary Legal Materials and Pricing Options, which reviews electronic authentication methods for legal and legislative materials. Six sample solutions are described and their relative costs are compared.
The Minnesota Office of the Revisor of Statutes has published Prototype for Authentication of Official Electronic Record and Pricing (August 2012), which describes a software prototype built to satisfy the requirements of UELMA. In addition, the revisor's office and Thomson Reuters earlier created an “XML Wrapper” prototype--an XML file that includes XML bill data, associated metadata, and all other file formats a legislature produces (PDF, Word). It also computes hash values (a mathematical algorithm) that can be used to verify that the content has not changed over time or during transmissions.
Collaborative Projects and Publications
The National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program (NDIIPP) at the Library of Congress, is a collaborative effort to develop a national strategy to collect, preserve and make available significant digital content, especially information that is created in digital form only, for current and future generations.
The Minnesota Historical Society (MHS) project, Model Technological and Social Architecture for the Preservation of State Government Digital Information worked with NCSL and legislatures in 10 states to explore methods to provide enhanced online access to legislative materials in digital form. Hear more about the project from a MHS podcast, "Good Government through Digital Infrastructure and Preservation," (5:50), featuring Margaret Anderson Kelliher, former Speaker of the Minnesota House of Representatives.