Intellectual Property: January 9 -29, 2008

Property and Ownership

Property and Ownership

by Dan McGuire -
Number of replies: 5

Ownership and Property

Property – anything you own

Ownership – possession of property

Obviously property and ownership are dependant on the each other

Often people will point to the value of property, or the existence of legal documents defining property as the key defining factors.

Some of my most valuable property includes photos of my children, or artwork they created when they were very young, it really has no monetary value, no legal documentation of ownership but it is definitely ‘mine’.

Obviously a good definition of property must include things that have no monetary value or legal documentation.

Does property have to be a physical good? The artwork and photos I described would certainly be considered ‘tangible’ goods.

Other valuable property would be ‘money’ – money is something that is easy to understand – we can touch it, feel it, it states right on it how much it is worth. Money is easy to define as ‘property’. What about the money we have in a bank account? That money isn’t really sitting there in a vault, it is really just a notation on an account….an agreement that if we walk into the bank and ask for that money, the bank will go out and find bits of paper that add up to that amount. Money is, for the most part, an example of intangible property. As much as we may dislike the mad scramble to get more money, I doubt many people would desire a world where there was no ownership of money.

Perhaps the idea of property could be defined by the physical ability to control it? A car for example is protected by locks – we can control the car because we have a key.

I have a friend who works for an insurance company assessing the effectivness of those locks. His job is basically to ‘steal’ cars all day long. He can open and start just about any car in seconds – locks are completely ineffective against his knowledge. Does this mean that he ‘owns’ every car? Does this in any way diminish my ownership of my car?

If you own land you have control over who can access the land – easy to do for a small tract, but next to impossible for a large area. What about people who simply walk over your land – very hard to control that, technically as the owner you should be able to but the reality is not so.

I have come to the conclusion that the fundamental element defining property and ownership is the recognition of others that any thing is ‘owned’ by someone. My property is mine because everyone else acknowledges and accepts that it is mine.

For a more thorough description of property, have a look at wikipedia


In reply to Dan McGuire

Re: Property and Ownership

by Alice Macpherson -
Possession and Title

I think that your friend who breaks into cars is moving in the Possession range without having Title. :-)
I think that control is another issue and that theft is an illegal way to take control but still does not confer Title generally. Then there is the question of legality. Societal agreement about ownership is important but can be affected by the law of the land (sometimes enacted without the consent of the majority). When laws are changed, then Possession and Title may be changed, often without the agreement of the former "owner".

Legally, I cannot own an idea - although some folks argue that occasionally in the court system. I fear the time when an idea is declared as a legal possession with title.

Initially, I said, among other things:
>I own my name, identity, reputation and my actions
Although Karen pointed out that identity can be stolen and names may be "shared" by others, these things don't really have Title in the same sense as a car or a home do. certainly, my reputation is not a tangible object but it is vitally important to me none the less.

Interesting thoughts are being provoked!


In reply to Alice Macpherson

Re: Property and Ownership

by Dan McGuire -

We'll get into the legality of the ownership of ideas later....but for now I have to ask a question.

Is there any logic or reason behind the question 'Whose idea was that?'

In reply to Dan McGuire

Re: Property and Ownership

by Marsha West -
Hmmm . . . .would it be useful to think about this. I may not "own an idea," but can I own the "shape of the idea as expressed" since it is my creation? Just as I cannot own words, but I can have copyright over text I have created??

~~marsha west
In reply to Alice Macpherson

Re: Property and Ownership

by Nick Kearney -
I don't think you own more than a part of your identity; your perception of your identity, the rest is endlessly negotiated with others, all those who know you. They don't need to steal it, they already own a part of it!!
Reputation is a subset of identity and is even more outside your control.
For example, you may feel you have defined part of your identity in this forum by the photo/image you choose, and feel that you control that. But my interpretation of the image you have chosen, and of your reason for choosing to portray your self in that way is equally or more important in the definition of your identity in this forum.
And this post is my identity, and your reaction to it will chan
ge my identity in this context.
Ask any hermit:)
In reply to Dan McGuire

A hypothetical question - collaboration and ownership

by Marsha West -
Let's see--suppose that I teach an online course. The learners in this course do collaborative work as they complete the assignments. The expectations are very clear, and one may only remain in the course if he/she contributes regularly and positively. Failure to participate leads to the person being dropped from the course.

Over the years there has been continuing discussion about whether a dropped learner should retain access to the course. Some would say that if the person retains "observer" status, (read, but not write privileges) he/she can continue to benefit from the work that continues to be done. Others feel that is unfair to those who are engaged in collaborative "construction" of learning -- and that it fails to provide a "safe and comfortable" learning environment.

It seems to me that this is a question that relates entirely to the issue of ownership of ideas --

I feel strongly that when someone leaves the class they should no longer have access to that space. The ideas being shared there belong to the collaborators, not to a lurker who has not contributed. . . .

What do others think about this??