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Legal Dictionary

ownership

Legal Definition of ownership

Derived terms


Definition of ownership

Etymology

Pronunciation

Noun

ownership (plural ownerships)

  1. The state of having complete legal control of the status of something.

Further reading

Ownership is the state or fact of exclusive rights and control over property, which may be an object, land/real estate or intellectual property. Ownership involves multiple rights, collectively referred to as title, which may be separated and held by different parties. The concept of ownership has existed for thousands of years and in all cultures. Over the millennia, however, and across cultures what is considered eligible to be property and how that property is regarded culturally is very different. Ownership is the basis for many other concepts that form the foundations of ancient and modern societies such as money, trade, debt, bankruptcy, the criminality of theft and private vs. public property. Ownership is the key building block in the development of the capitalist socio-economic system.

The process and mechanics of ownership are fairly complex since one can gain, transfer and lose ownership of property in a number of ways. To acquire property one can purchase it with money, trade it for other property, receive it as a gift, steal it, find it, make it or homestead it. One can transfer or lose ownership of property by selling it for money, exchanging it for other property, giving it as a gift, being robbed of it, misplacing it, or having it stripped from one's ownership through legal means such as eviction, foreclosure, seizure or taking. Ownership is self-propagating in that the owner of any property will also own the economic benefits of that property.

Types of property

- Personal property

(See personal property)

Personal property is a type of property. In the common law systems personal property may also be called chattels. It is distinguished from real property, or real estate. In the civil law systems personal property is often called movable property or movables - any property that can be moved from one location or another. This term is used to distinguish property that different from immovable property or immovables, such as land and buildings.

Personal property may be classified in a variety of ways, such as goods, money, negotiable instruments, securities, and intangible assets including choses in action.

- Land ownership

(See real estate)

Real estate or immovable property is a legal term (in some jurisdictions) that encompasses land along with anything permanently affixed to the land, such as buildings. Real estate (immovable property) is often considered synonymous with real property, in contrast from personal property (also sometimes called chattel or personalty). However, for technical purposes, some people prefer to distinguish real estate, referring to the land and fixtures themselves, from real property, referring to ownership rights over real estate. The terms real estate and real property are used primarily in common law, while civil law jurisdictions refer instead to immovable property.

In law, the word real means relating to a thing (from Latin reālis, ultimately from r"s, 'matter' or 'thing'), as distinguished from a person. Thus the law broadly distinguishes between real property (land and anything affixed to it) and personal property (everything else, e.g., clothing, furniture, money). The conceptual difference is between immovable property, which would transfer title along with the land, and movable property, which a person would retain title to. (Incidentally, the word real in real estate is not derived from the notion of land having historically been "royal" property. The word royal-and its Spanish cognate, real-come from the unrelated Latin word r"gālis 'kingly,' which is a derivative of r"x, meaning 'king.')

With the development of private property ownership, real estate has become a major area of business.

- Corporations and legal entities

(See private property)

An individual or group of individuals can own corporations and other legal entities. A legal entity is a legal construct through which the law allows a group of natural persons to act as if it were an individual for certain purposes. Some companies and entities are owned privately by the individuals who registered them with the government while other companies are owned publicly.

Some duly incorporated entities may not be owned by individuals nor by other entities; they exist without being owned once they are created. Not being owned, they cannot be bought and sold. Mutual life insurance companies, credit unions, and cooperatives are examples of this. No person can purchase the company, as their ownership is not legally available for sale, neither as shares nor as a single whole.

A publicly listed company, known as a public company, is owned by any member of the public who wishes to purchase stock in that company rather than by a relatively few individuals. A company that is owned by stockholders who are members of the general public and trade shares publicly, often through a listing on a stock exchange. Ownership is open to anyone who has the money and inclination to buy shares in the company. Owners, however, are generally classified in three groups. Those with 5% Ownerships of the stock usually hold significant sway over the company. Mutual Funds and regular institutions can also own the stock; if they own enough, can are considered as part of the 5% ownership category. Public companies usually are differentiated from privately held companies where the shares are held by a small group of individuals often members of one or a small group of families or otherwise related individuals (or other companies). For a discussion of the British and Irish variant of this type of company, see public limited company.

- Intellectual property

(See intellectual property)

Intellectual (IP) property refers to a legal entitlement which sometimes attaches to the expressed form of an idea, or to some other intangible subject matter. This legal entitlement generally enables its holder to exercise exclusive rights of use in relation to the subject matter of the IP. The term intellectual property reflects the idea that this subject matter is the product of the mind or the intellect, and that IP rights may be protected at law in the same way as any other form of property.

- Chattel slavery

The living human body is, in most modern societies, considered something which cannot be the property of anyone but the person whose body it is. This is in contradistinction to chattel slavery. Chattel slavery is a type of slavery defined as the absolute legal ownership of a person or persons, including the legal right to buy and sell them. The slaves do not have the freedom to live life as they choose, but as they are instructed by their owners, and their rights may be either severely limited or nonexistent. In most countries, chattel slaves were considered as movable property.

Slavery is currently illegal in every country around the world, however, up until the 19th century slavery and ownership of people had existed in one form or another in nearly every society on earth. Notwithstanding the illegality according to codes of law, slavery still exists in various forms today.

References:

  1. Wiktionary. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.



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