Ownership, Right of

Ownership, Right of


a basic institution of any system of law—the aggregate of legal norms that secure the ownership of objects (means of production and results of labor) by particular individuals or collectives and the legal authority, based on this ownership, to possess, use, and dispose of these objects. The legally established measure of admissible behavior by an owner constitutes ownership as a subjective right. An owner may be temporarily limited in exercising the legal authority of possession, use, and disposition of an object. This limitation may be voluntary, or it may be compulsory and provided for by law. For example, a person who has rented an object to another is deprived of the power to possess and use the object for the effective period of the property rental contract.

In the USSR, state organizations that have been given operational management of state property in their capacity as juristic (legal) persons also exercise the legal powers of possession, use, and disposition of the property within the limits established by law, but they are not owners of the property.

Soviet law for all property owners stipulates that the right of ownership based on a contract is subordinate to a general rule according to which a purchaser acquires the right of ownership (for state organizations, the right of operational management) at the moment that the object is transferred, unless otherwise provided for by law or contract. Transfer is recognized to mean not only delivery of the object to the purchaser, but also delivery of the object to a transportation agency for shipment to the purchaser or to the postal service for mailing to the purchaser. The risk of accidental loss or damage to an alienated object passes to the purchaser at the same time that his right of ownership arises, unless stipulated otherwise by contract. Fruit, offspring of animals, and income brought by the object belong to the owner unless otherwise stipulated by law or a contract concluded between the owner and another person. Common ownership of the same property by several persons is allowed.

The right of ownership may be terminated by a contract on alienation of the object or on other grounds established by law. For example, the right of ownership is terminated if the property has no owner or the owner is unknown (ownerless property). The right of ownership is also terminated in the case of improper maintenance of a home by a private owner or improper maintenance of cultural treasures by their citizen-owner. Other grounds for deprivation of right of ownership include expiration of a set period from the day that an object was lost by the owner if the owner has not found it during this period or the discovery of a treasure. In the case of requisition, confiscation, or nationalization, the right of ownership is forfeited. In all of these cases the right of ownership of the property passes to the state.

The right of ownership is protected by administrative law, criminal law, and civil law. It is protected in civil law by recovery. An owner may also bring a civil suit to remove all infringements on his right of ownership even if these infringements are not connected to loss of possession (a negatory suit).