The United States deed recording system alters the ‘first in time, first in right’ doctrine to enable good faith purchasers to record their deeds to protect themselves against prior unrecorded conveyances, and to provide constructive notice of their interests to potential subsequent purchasers. Constructive notice, however, works only when land records are available for public inspection, a practice that had long proved uncontroversial. For centuries, deed archives were almost exclusively patronized by land-transacting parties because the difficulty and cost of title examination deterred nearly everyone else.
The modern information economy, however, propelled this staid corner of property law into a computer age in which land records are electronically maintained and instantaneously accessible over the internet. That development transformed public land records into a marketable commodity independent of the deed recording system’s notice-giving function …
Weisbord, Reid K and Sterk, Stewart E, The Commodification of Public Land Records (February 28, 2021). Notre Dame Law Review, volume 97 (forthcoming).