Professors' Corner: The Commodification of Public Land Records
Recorded on August 10, 2021
- Panelists: Stewart E. Sterk, Benjamin Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University
- Professor Reid Weisbord, Rutgers Law School
- Benjamin Orzeske, Uniform Law Commission
The computerization of land records has created a marketable commodity independent of the deed recording system’s traditional notice-giving function. Content extracted from public land records is now actively traded on the internet and routinely purchased by commercial firms for targeted marketing and customer prospecting. While the accessibility of data from public land records is a win for transparency, the erosion of privacy can dangerously equip wrongdoers with on-demand entrée to personal information. The panelists will trace the deed recording system’s transformation from a notice-giving mechanism of property law to a primary supplier of commodified data for sale. They will survey the traditional functions of deed recording, describe the recent migration of deeds from paper to electronic form as the predicate for commodification, and consider the implications of electronic disclosure for privacy, transparency, and the regulation of anonymous entity ownership. The panelists will also discuss the efficacy of proposed legislative reforms and outline voluntary precautions that homeowners can implement under existing law.