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Objects of Property

What are considered to be Objects of the Property?

The classification of “things”

In general, Anglo-American law addresses questions of interpretation less than is civil law. Except in the United States, where it is automatically entitled to constitutional protection by identifying something as a property, there is less debate in the Anglo-American legal system as to whether a given value or object should be treated as property. Nevertheless, Anglo-American law generally displays the same characteristics as civil law. Nearly all tangible things are conceived as capable of supporting property interests; some intangibles are treated in the same way as tangibles, and some are not.

About Water and Land

Water and land beneath and bordering the water are treated differently from other types of property everywhere in the West. Civil law in the West tends to give the state substantial power over water and land near water. The US has a well-developed rule on taking water from a navigable or non-navigable stream.

The right to take water from a lake in the eastern part of the United States is based upon possession of lands adjacent to the source. The right to take water in western part of the country tends to depend on having first taken it (prior appropriation). Public control has come increasingly into the foreground in both parts of the country.

About the human body

The human body, living or dead, isn’t an item of private property throughout the West. This reality has created problems in many legal systems.

For instance, if the human body is not property, what happens when someone makes a donation or sells blood or body organs, or makes a testamentary disposition of his body of medical purposes, is the issue. Some jurisdictions have specific legislation on this issue, but the conceptual complexity is not addressed in any way.

About possession of tangible things

Every legal system that begins its property law with a possession definition will have a skewed property law in favor of tangible things. Westerners can easily conceive of possessing nearly anything that can be touched. To conceive of possessing an abstraction as a right, a privilege, or a power is far more difficult. Westerners who are not lawyers will say they have their watches or their property; they rarely say they have their bank accounts or the ability to move their land.

About possession of intangible things

Since ownership in both Anglo-American and civil law is so central to land, the greater inability of civil-law systems to accept possessive interests in intangibles has significant consequences for the manner in which the two systems conceive of property rights. In land matters, civil law tends to give ownership to the landowner and is reluctant to recognize property rights in anyone other than the landowner.

Nevertheless, Anglo-American law acknowledges numerous land ownership rights, and thus appears to talk not of land ownership but of land ownership – that is, of an intangible legal abstraction in a tangible matter.

About Movable and Immovable Property

Movable objects, on the other hand, were covered by “personal” actions, both in the sense that the defendant had made some error to recover and, in the sense, that money damage, not actual recovery of the property, was usually the only remedy available. Reflecting these two types of actions, real property (such as a permanent building) came to be called private property, and personal property (such as personal property).

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