An Introduction to The Indigo Book

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You’ve heard of The Bluebook. You’ve heard of The Redbook. (Probably.) But have you heard of The Indigo Book?

If not, you’re one of today’s lucky 10,000 ! The Indigo Book is an open system of citation that had its beta-release in 2016. It was created by a group of NYU law students and professor, Professor Christopher Jon Sprigman, on the idea that although The Bluebook is copyrighted, the underlying system of citation belongs to everyone. It is part of the “system and method of our legal machinery” and therefore there is no intellectual property right in it, at least so says Professor Sprigman in the Introduction. The Indigo Book’s scope is roughly the “Bluepages” of The Bluebook, though with more depth.

Now that you know what it is, why might you use The Indigo Book instead of The Bluebook?

First, The Bluebook is, well, a book. I’m as much a bibliophile as anyone else, but there is something about having a bookmarked, internally-hyperlinked PDF with the possibility to Ctrl+F my way through it that is just . . . nice. You can acquire a digital version of The Bluebook, but it costs an initial annual subscription rate of $36. Yes, that is on top of buying the print copy. (As a purchaser of a print copy though, one does get a free 30-day trial.) 

Second, The Indigo Book is free and “open.” There are various levels and kinds of open licensing (open source software, green open access, black open access, etc.), but here it means “No Rights Reserved.” The creators of The Indigo Book published it under a CC0 . They have essentially avowed all copyrights they have in it and made it free to do whatever with.

In fact, here it is: https://law.resource.org/pub/us/code/blue/IndigoBook.html . Download it as a PDF. Put it on your phone, your laptop, your tablet, or even your Samsung refrigerator; who doesn’t love a little citation review before getting some midnight cheese? The authors have even explicitly opened The Indigo Book up for improvement.

That said, all that glitters is not gold.

The Indigo Book was made to be compatible with the twentieth edition of The Bluebook for usability’s sake. There are, however, differences. If you are writing for a journal that is very particular about Bluebooking, The Indigo Book is not 1:1 and doesn’t include a great deal of what is in the white pages of The Bluebook. This is in part intentional by the creators of The Indigo Book. Some of what makes The Bluebook cumbersome is the prescriptiveness of so many fairly minor things like abbreviation. You can read Judge Posner, yes the Judge Posner, write about how cumbersome The Bluebook is here . The Indigo Book was created with a more flexible, arguably practical, citation system in mind. Optimistically, the more organizations that accept The Indigo Book the less of an issue any differences will become.

For more practice-oriented writing, citation requirements vary across courts and court systems. Best practices still apply, and you should always check the rules of the court you are filing in to see how they require things be cited. The Indigo Book was based off the public domain tenth edition of The Bluebook. There are reportedly only minor differences between editions ten and twenty, so there is a good chance The Indigo Book could be useful. 

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Posted by Nor Ortiz on Thu. September 26, 2019 2:55 PM
Categories: Uncategorized


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