One of the enduring mysteries about property is why the law protects both ownership and possession. In a pre-modern world, with low rates of literacy and no formal method of registering titles, one can understand why the law would protect possession. In such a world, there may be no concept of property beyond the understanding that persons should respect possessory rights established by others. It is less clear why possession should be protected once property comes to be understood as ownership. Ownership and possession will commonly overlap, and protecting ownership will protect possession. Nevertheless, even in the most sophisticated legal systems, where digital records and title registries protect ownership, possession continues to be legally protected independently of ownership. The objective of this chapter is to explain the persistence of this dual nature of property law, whereby the law protects both ownership and possession.
Law | Property Law and Real Estate
Thomas W. Merrill,
Ownership and Possession,
Law and Economics of Possession, Yun-chien Chang (Ed.), Cambridge University Press
Available at: https://scholarship.law.columbia.edu/faculty_scholarship/4336