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Rule of Capture

Definition - What does Rule of Capture mean?

The rule of capture is a common law tradition that says that ownership is properly bestowed on the first person to capture a natural resource.

The rule of capture is used to resolve disputes in property law cases and is based on a common-sense understanding that the first person to control the property in question should hold the strongest property rights.

Justipedia explains Rule of Capture

The rule of capture is often at issue in cases involving extraction industries like coal mining or oil and gas drilling. In the oil industry, for example, a person who owns land where oil is believed to exist will drill as many wells as possible to capture the oil as quickly as possible to claim ownership of the oil (under the rule of capture).

Due to environmental concerns, the rule of capture is coming under scrutiny because it encourages aggressive exploitation.

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