Perpetual Property

46 Pages Posted: 1 Sep 2008 Last revised: 15 Sep 2009

See all articles by Sarah Harding

Sarah Harding

Chicago-Kent College of Law - Illinois Institute of Technology

Date Written: August 28, 2008


This paper explores the emergence of perpetual property in a number of discrete areas of property law: the longevity of servitudes in historic and environmental preservation, the ever growing time span of intellectual property rights, the disappearance of the rules against perpetual interests, and the temporally unlimited reach of cultural property claims. While the demise of temporal limitations is itself worthy of recognition and will be the focus of a significant part of this paper, my primary interest is whether these changes tell us something about shifting cultural attitudes to the institution of private property. If it is the case, as a number of prominent sociologists have argued, that an exploration of social attitudes toward time is indispensable to an understanding of our current cultural conditions then exploring temporal limitations in property law will presumably help us better understand what Professor Radin has called the cultural commitments of property. This topic is particularly compelling when one considers that the emergence of perpetual property, with its assumption of stability and permanence, has occurred at a time when speed, flexibility and impermanence are dominant features of our current social conditions. The prevailing conditions in society, even a single generation into the future, are likely to be so different from today that long-term control of property seems anachronistic and paradoxical. So why is it that in an era of rapid technological change we are more willing to tolerate perpetual property interests?

Keywords: perpetual property, property, intellectualy property rights, cultural attitudes, technological change

JEL Classification: K11

Suggested Citation

Harding, Sarah, Perpetual Property (August 28, 2008). Florida Law Review, Vol. 61, 2009, Chicago-Kent Intellectual Property, Science & Technology Research Paper No. 08-005, Available at SSRN:

Sarah Harding (Contact Author)

Chicago-Kent College of Law - Illinois Institute of Technology ( email )

565 W. Adams St.
Chicago, IL 60661-3691
United States

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