Professor Sheds Light on a Building Problem

Brady’s Paper Chosen for Yale/Stanford/Harvard Junior Faculty Forum
Molly Brady

Molly Brady’s scholarship uses historical analyses of property institutions, doctrinal rules, land use policies and constitutional property provisions to explore broader theoretical questions. Photo by Jesús Pino

April 26, 2019

“Believe Women” projected on a Best Buy store. A nativity scene on the ACLU of Los Angeles. Political jabs about emoluments on President Donald Trump’s hotel in Washington, D.C.

Whether the messages are for advertising, free speech or some other purpose, University of Virginia School of Law professor Molly Brady argues that owners should have legal rights that take priority in the now-frequent practice of projecting light displays on buildings. 

In “Property and Projection,” her forthcoming paper for the Harvard Law Review, Brady says a new legal approach is needed. She will present her findings and assertions at the Yale/Stanford/Harvard Junior Faculty Forum in June.

Previous legal attempts to block projected displays under theories of trespass and nuisance have been swatted down by the courts, which have sought to uphold speech rights in the process.

Brady, however, says that owners have “communicative interest” rights to their property, including expectations for how it is to be displayed.

She acknowledges the issue is complicated, and that certain free speech arguments may still hold validity, but “there are equally powerful reasons to fear proliferated projection rights will undermine the goals of free expression as much as they would undermine settled property expectations.”

She says lawyers representing owners might also find success in the reinterpretation of existing nuisance law or in pushing for new laws.

Brady’s scholarship uses historical analyses of property institutions, doctrinal rules, land use policies and constitutional property provisions to explore broader theoretical questions in property law. Her article “The Forgotten History of Metes and Bounds” won the Association of American Law Schools’ 2019 Scholarly Papers Prize for junior faculty members in their first five years of law teaching.

Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.

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