A Programming Language for Estates and Future Interests

May 12, 2022, 11:00 AM - 11:45 AM


The Heldrich Hotel & Conference Center

10 Livingston Avenue

New Brunswick, NJ 08901


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James Grimmelmann, Cornell University

We present Orlando, a programming language for expressing transfers of rights in real property, and Littleton, an online and freely available implementation that can interpret legal "programs" written in Orlando, diagram the resulting property interests, and model the consequences of future events. Orlando and Littleton take advantage of the ways in which the highly formalized language used by lawyers, scholars, and teachers to express property transfers already has significant features of a programming language, one whose semantics are the doctrines of property law. Formalizing future interests helps students and teachers to visualize and experiment with the rules of property law. Moreover, the process of formalization is itself deeply illuminating about property doctrine and theory.



James Grimmelmann is the Tessler Family Professor of Digital and Information Law at Cornell Law School and Cornell Tech, where he directs CTRL-ALT, the Cornell Tech Research Lab in Applied Law and Technology. He studies how laws regulating software affect freedom, wealth, and power. He helps lawyers and technologists understand each other, applying ideas from computer science to problems in law and vice versa. He is the author of the textbook Internet Law: Cases and Problems and numerous articles on search engines, digital copyright, online governance, content moderation, and other topics in computer and Internet law.