79 Pages Posted: 21 Aug 2015 Last revised: 13 Apr 2016
Date Written: August 19, 2015
The sharing economy – the rapidly evolving sector of peer-to-peer transactions epitomized by Airbnb and Uber – is the subject of heated debate about whether activities taking place within it are so novel that no laws apply, or whether they should be subject to the same regulations as their analog counterparts. The debate has proved frustrating and controversial in large part because we lack a doctrinally cohesive and normatively satisfying way of talking about the underlying activities taking place in the sharing economy. In part, this is because property-sharing activities – renting your car to someone for a day, paying to spend the weekend in a stranger’s house – blur the familiar binary divisions of personal and commercial, gratuitous and non-gratuitous, formal and informal, that the law employs to characterize human activities. Because we lack a coherent analysis of these underlying property-sharing activities, any judgment about the sharing economy’s social value or attempts to regulate it are incomplete and confusing at best, and possibly inaccurate or counter-productive.
This Article brings clarity and coherence to this discourse by unpacking the underlying activities taking place within the sharing economy and developing a conceptual framework and taxonomy of sharing. By being more precise about what we mean when we talk about the sharing economy and situating these activities with respect to existing legal institutions and shifting social norms, this Article provides an essential foundation for future scholarship on the sharing economy, as well as for policymakers evaluating regulatory responses to the sharing economy.
Keywords: sharing economy, property, land use, local government, zoning, urban planning, municipal, police power, Airbnb, Uber, innovation, regulation
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