Mine!—How the Hidden Rules of Ownership Control our Lives

With Michael Heller & James Salzman

Join us for a virtual discussion with law professors Michael Heller and James Salzman to discuss the hidden set of rules that reveals how things become “mine”—the favorite word of every two-year-old.

As adults, of course, the idea of ownership feels natural, whether we are buying a cup of coffee or a house. But who controls the space behind your airplane seat: your reclining self or the squished laptop user seated behind you? And why is plagiarism wrong, but it’s okay to knock-off a recipe or a dress design? After a snowstorm, why does a chair in the street hold your parking space in Chicago, but in New York you lose both the space and the chair?

Heller and Salzman explain these puzzles and many more using six simple stories that almost everyone uses to claim almost everything. And although choosing which story to use is often based on our most obvious legal rights, we can always pick a different story to use. This is true not just for airplane seats, but also for battles over digital privacy, climate change and wealth inequality. As Heller and Salzman demonstrate with stories that are eye-opening, mind-bending and sometimes infuriating, ownership is always up for grabs.