Property Outlaws

Property Outlaws puts forth the intriguingly counterintuitive proposition that, in the case of both tangible and intellectual property law, disobedience can often lead to an improvement in legal regulation. The authors argue that in property law there is a tension between the competing demands of stability and dynamism, but its tendency is to become static and fall out of step with the needs of society.

The authors employ wide-ranging examples of the behaviors of “property outlaws”—the trespasser, squatter, pirate, or file-sharer—to show how specific behaviors have induced legal innovation. They also delineate the similarities between the actions of property outlaws in the spheres of tangible and intellectual property. An important conclusion of the book is that a dynamic between the activities of “property outlaws” and legal innovation should be cultivated in order to maintain this avenue of legal reform.

Published by Yale University Press. Available for purchase at Yale University Press,, and Barnes & Noble. Also available on Kindle.

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Praise for Property Outlaws

Property Outlaws offers a sparkling account of the ways in which lawbreaking can both strengthen and reshape the law. Peñalver and Katyal remind us that virtue can be found both in provocation and enforcement -- and that a society wins when neither has carte blanche.

--Jonathan Zittrain, Professor of Law, Harvard Law School, and Co-Founder, Berkman Center for Internet & Society

A powerful thesis, gracefully articulated.

--Tim Wu, Columbia Law School

We have needed this book for a long time. For the first time, two legal scholars have woven the history of civil disobedience with the development of property law in both tangible and intangible forms. This book will be essential to understanding the complex relationship between norms and laws, and the ways that media events influence both. It's written in a lively and accessible manner. My students will benefit greatly from it.

--Siva Vaidhyanathan, The University of Virginia

From the illegal occupation of tribal and federal lands by white squatters to the Indian occupation of Alcatraz Island, from the lunch counter sit-ins to the online posting of a major civil rights film without consent of the filmmaker, Peñalver and Katyal show how those excluded from property have shaped property law and ultimately social life by intentionally infringing on the rights of owners. A major achievement.

--Joseph William Singer, Bussey Professor of Law, Harvard Law School

Eduardo Peñalver and Sonia Katyal offer a challenging and insightful account of disobedience and boundary-skirting in property law. Linking real and intellectual property law, Property Outlaws shows how such resistance can and should affect our concepts of law, as well as justice.

--Rebecca Tushnet, Georgetown Law School

Blog Reviews

Persuasive Authorities: Book Recommendation - Property Outlaws

EFF Deeplinks Blog: Book Review

On the Commons: New book explores the constructive role of civil disobedience in improving property law

BoingBoing: Important scholarly book on how breaking property law improves it