Blockchain Real Estate and NFTs

62 Pages Posted: 9 Aug 2022 Last revised: 30 Jan 2024

See all articles by Juliet M. Moringiello

Juliet M. Moringiello

Widener University - Commonwealth Law School

Christopher K. Odinet

University of Iowa - College of Law

Date Written: August 3, 2022

Abstract

Non-fungible tokens (popularly known as NFTs) and blockchains are frequently promoted as the solution to a multitude of property ownership problems. The promise of an immutable blockchain is often touted as a mechanism to resolve disputes over intangible rights, notably intellectual property rights, and even to facilitate quicker and easier real estate transactions.

In this Symposium Article, we question the use of distributed ledger technologies as a method of facilitating and verifying the transfer of physical assets. As our example of an existing transfer method, we use real property law, which is characterized by centuries-old common law rules regarding fractionalized ownership and local land records that still, in many jurisdictions, rely on paper. We explain the history of real property title protection and then identify the problems with the existing system. We then compare the extant system (and its problems) with what blockchain could offer, concluding that a blockchain system would provide few, if any, benefits.

That said, we concede that tracking and transferring ownership of certain rights—specifically, purely intangible rights—is a long-standing legal problem that begs for resolution. We focus on ownership signals, and contrast ownership of physical assets—which is broadcast in part by manual possession in addition to, in the real estate realm, recording—and ownership of intangible assets, which cannot be possessed in a way that easily gives a signal to the entire world that the possessor is the owner. Because of that difference, we conclude that the true use case for NFTs and distributed ledgers is in tracking and verifying ownership of intangibles.

Keywords: crypto, real estate, blockchain, distributed ledger technology, NFTs, non-fungible tokens, recording systems, deeds, mortgages, Propy, crypto mortgage, intellectual property, code, DLT, ownership, property law, real estate

Suggested Citation

Moringiello, Juliet M. and Odinet, Christopher K., Blockchain Real Estate and NFTs (August 3, 2022). 64 William & Mary Law Review 1131 (2023), U Iowa Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2022-16, Widener Law Commonwealth Research Paper, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4180876

Juliet M. Moringiello

Widener University - Commonwealth Law School ( email )

3800 Vartan Way
Harrisburg, PA 17110-9380
United States
717-541-3917 (Phone)

Christopher K. Odinet (Contact Author)

University of Iowa - College of Law ( email )

130 Byington Road
Iowa City, IA 52242
United States

HOME PAGE: http://https://law.uiowa.edu/people/christopher-odinet

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