Skip to main content
Open access

The Indigo Book

A Manual of Legal Citation (version 2.0)

Jennifer Romig, Chris Sprigman

Welcome to The Indigo Book—a free, Creative Commons-dedicated implementation of The Bluebook’s Uniform System of Citation. The Indigo Book was compiled by a team of students at the New York University School of Law, working under the direction of Professor Christopher Jon Sprigman.

The Indigo Book isn’t the same as The Bluebook, but it does implement the same Uniform System of Citation that The Bluebook does. The scope of The Indigo Book’s coverage is roughly equivalent to The Bluebook’s “Bluepages”—that is, The Indigo Book covers legal citation for U.S. legal materials, as well as books, periodicals, and Internet and other electronic resources. In addition, The Indigo Book offers citation guidance that is deeper than The Bluebook’s Bluepages—for example, The Indigo Book has citation guidance for bills, and for legislative history, that the Bluepages lack. For the materials that it covers, anyone using The Indigo Book will produce briefs, memoranda, law review articles, and other legal documents with citations that are compatible with the Uniform System of Citation.

Note that The Indigo Book’s scope does not extend to (now virtually unused) loose-leaf reporters, nor to foreign legal materials or the publications of international organizations like the United Nations. Most American lawyers cite these materials only rarely, and providing citation rules for the enormous number of international jurisdictions is part of what makes The Bluebook as unwieldy as it has become.

The Indigo Book offers a couple of important advantages to users, compared with The Bluebook. Unlike The BluebookThe Indigo Book is free. Free in two different ways that are equally important. First, The Indigo Book is given to you free of charge. Considering that the Uniform System of Citation has become a basic piece of infrastructure for the American system of justice, it is vital that pro se litigants, prisoners, and others seeking justice but who lack resources are given effective access to the system lawyers use to cite to the law. That interest in access and basic fairness is part of what motivated The Indigo Book’s creation.

Second, and perhaps even more importantly, The Indigo Book is free of the restrictions of copyright. You are free to copy and distribute this work, and—most importantly—to improve on it. This is important, because we want people with a stake in our legal citation system to help make that system simpler and better. To achieve these goals, we are releasing The Indigo Book under a Creative Commons “CC0” public domain dedication that allows you to use it, copy it, distribute it, and—we hope—improve it.

So, what sorts of improvement do we hope for? This original edition of The Indigo Book is compatible with the current, 20th edition of The Bluebook. We will admit, however, that our decision to make The Indigo Book compatible with The Bluebook’s Uniform System of Citation was mostly self-interested and strategic—we want people to adopt The Indigo Book, and the best way to achieve that goal, we reasoned, was to give people a citation guide that they could use to produce documents that look as if they used The Bluebook.

We think this is the right path, at least initially, but please understand that our decision to make The Indigo Book Bluebook-compatible doesn’t stop you from doing otherwise. There are ways to improve The Indigo Book that involve breaking free of The Bluebook. Indeed, in some ways the recent editions of The Bluebook have adopted an unhelpfully over-prescriptive approach to citation that has resulted in needless complexity. It wasn’t always that way. Back in 1959, the 10th edition of The Bluebook declared that “[t]he primary purpose of a citation is to facilitate finding and identifying the authority cited. The rules set forth in this booklet should not be considered invariable. Whenever clarity will be served, the citation form should be altered without hesitation; whenever a citation would not amplify the identification of the authority referred to, no citation should be given.”

That sounds right to us. Can we get back to a more sensible, flexible system of legal citation? The Indigo Book takes the first step by restating the Uniform System of Citation for U.S. legal materials, and for books, periodicals, and Internet and other electronic resources. The next step is up to you. Take The Indigo Book, use it, enjoy it, improve it—maybe you international lawyers out there will add coverage of foreign and international law? Then, consistent with the spirit of our project—give your improvements to the world.