(mfe) This article on Spiegel Online reminded me of a discussion we recently had. I was told that in the USA there is no such (legal) concept of “Finderlohn” (finder’s reward) the way we have it here in Germany. I wonder if this is true – please comment. People told me “finder’s keeper” is a common US phrase, meaning: Whoever finds stuff, may keep it. Under the term of “homesteading” this even applies to empty houses – look up “squatters”. And if you plan to buy a house in the states be sure to not leave it alone for too long.

German paragraphs regulate Finder’s Rewards

In Germany there is – as so often even a legal paragraph (and a whole legal concept “Fundrecht”) that tells us how to handle lost and found items: §§971 BGB defines who has to and how much finder’s reward has to be paid. So if you happen to find a wallet e.g. on a street in Germany, better be careful: you might commit an offence by simply keeping it. You are supposed to return it to a local “Fundamt or Fundbüro” (They even offer online search for lost and returned items!) or any similar office of the authority where you found it – on trains that might be the conductor or on a bus or tram the driver (The Deutsche Bahn even runs its own service ). Simply keeping precious things you found might bring you in trouble, it’s considered fraud. However, if nobody comes to pick up the lost item from the Fundamt, you may be allowed to keep it after some months of waiting. In the meantime, you could think of visiting one of the regular auctions that happen at the Fundamt. Yes, there you can buy lost items that nobody (owner nor finder) claimed within the legal period.

Fighting for Rewards – or not

In the story from Munich, a woman did not even want the hundreds of Euro reward that she would be supposed to get. I guess in the US this seems to be handled differently: In 2010 US rapper Ryan Leslie lost his laptop. His video announcing one million reward for the lost device went viral, because first he tried to find his laptop bag via Youtube, then he refused to pay finder’s reward he had promised, and in the end a court had to sentence him to pay the reward he promised – which he responded to in a Youtube video as well.