As mentioned earlier, easements in gross provide easement rights to individuals or groups for the life of the easement holder. Because easements in gross are given to individuals, adjoining properties are not required. In fact, easements in gross can involved only one parcel of property, since there is only a servient tenement (with no dominant tenement necessary).
The most prevalent easements in gross are commercial easements for utility companies. Electric, gas, telephone and cable companies use easements to cut through the properties of landowners to provide utility service to that property owner and the neighboring properties. In addition, streets, railroads and alleys are sometimes created through easements in gross.
Although the easement in gross normally cannot be transferred, commercial easements—which are established for profit—can be bought, sold and mortgaged. Nevertheless, an easement holder cannot transfer to another property greater easement rights than it actually holds. For example, if an electric company holds a commercial easement to run wires across properties for the specific purpose of providing electricity, it cannot then necessarily lease or transfer its easement rights to a cable company. However, if the easement was to provide electricity and "messages," then such a lease or transfer may be allowed.
Cable access has been a somewhat complicated, developing issue in easement law, particularly since a 1973 Federal Court decision held that cable television companies were NOT public utilities.
The easement in gross should not be confused with a license, although they may seem very similar. The easement is a more permanent right, while the license is temporary. This is reflected by the fact that easements are normally created by a written document, while the license can be verbal.
The license is a limited privilege, allowing access and, sometimes, use of a parcel of property, for a specific purpose. For example, purchasing a valid Wrigley Field ticket would provide you with the right to enter and watch one Chicago Cubs game. Once the game is over, that privilege terminates. At the same time, the license is revocable; so Wrigley Field security can expel unruly or unwanted spectators.
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