Thursday, May 15, 2008

Sprankling on Owning the Center of the Earth

Nasa_54558main_world_med1 The UCLA Law Review has posted John G. Sprankling's Owning the Center of the Earth online.  Here's the abstract:

How far below the earth’s surface do property rights extend? The conventional wisdom is that a landowner holds title to everything between the surface and the center of the earth. This Article is the first legal scholarship to challenge the traditional view. It demonstrates that the “center of the earth” theory is poetic hyperbole, not binding law. Broadly speaking, the deeper the disputed region, the less likely courts are to recognize the surface owner’s title. The emergence of new technologies for use of the deep subsurface—such as heat mining and carbon sequestration, both of which may help mitigate global climate change—requires that we develop a new model of subsurface ownership. Accordingly, this Article proposes and evaluates four alternative approaches to subsurface property rights. The preferred model would recognize the surface owner’s title for only 1000 feet downward. If adopted, this approach would eliminate over 99 percent of the supposed real property ownership in the United States.

Very cool!

Ben Barros

Public domain image from NASA via Wikicommons

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Interesting article. However, it does have a fair number of inconsistencies: 1)The author advocates some kind of "environmental protection" for the subsurface, while admitting that it is essentially totally inaccessible to mankind. Then why do we need to have the governments of the world invoke administrative largess to protect that which no human is going to be able to spoil in the first place? 2) The author uses the extant Outer Space/Moon Treaty as a parallel for why there shouldn't be property rights in the "center of the earth", yet the very bases for those treaties is almost ready to be revisited since mankind now basically has the capabilities to put humans on other worlds.

But interesting none the less.

Posted by: Sam Gompers | May 15, 2008 12:42:03 PM