Legal Issues of Ownership

Table of Contents


Introduction

Ownership is often more complicated than a single individual acquiring an object and immediately having both physical possession and the legal right of ownership. This section deals with the description of shared ownership of an object, contested ownership, looting, theft and subsequent sale of the stolen object, as well as other legal claims such as copyright or restricted rights of reproduction.

Claims of Rights

In order to describe these situations, we introduce a new class called 'PropertyInterest'. This is a claim of a particular legal right, such as ownership or copyright, and is claimed by an Actor within a legal jurisdiction modeled as a Place. This class can then be used to describe any claim, valid or not, of any right.

The Claim is a Man Made Thing, rather than the activity of asserting the claim. As such it can be created and destroyed. It is not a physical thing, although there may be physical evidence such as a contract described using other parts of the model. It is also not the same as a ConceptualObject which cannot be destroyed once conceived. It is the beginning and ending of the Property Interest that gives the period of asserted validity, rather than as properties of the Property Interest itself.

The legal status that is claimed by the Property Interest is associated as a classification, like all other out-of-model classes. Thus, the basic Property Interest model has the following structure:

{
  "@context": "https://linked.art/ns/v1/linked-art.json", 
  "id": "https://linked.art/example/legal/0", 
  "type": "PropertyInterest", 
  "label": "Claim of Ownership", 
  "classified_as": ["aat:300055603"], 
  "interest_for": {
    "id": "https://linked.art/example/object/76", 
    "type": "ManMadeObject", 
    "label": "Example Painting", 
    "classified_as": ["aat:300033618"]
  }, 
  "jurisdiction": [
    {
      "id": "https://linked.art/example/place/12", 
      "type": "Place", 
      "label": "Legal jurisdiction of Claim"
    }
  ], 
  "claimed_by": [
    {
      "id": "https://linked.art/example/person/28", 
      "type": "Person", 
      "label": "Owner of Example Painting"
    }
  ]
}

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Effective Period

The PropertyInterest class does not have any relationship with a period or time span over which it is claimed. This is because it is modeled as a Thing, rather than a passive Activity. Things are, instead, brought into and out of existence by Activities, and this is the pattern we use to determine the period in which the claim is in effect. The claim is in effect from the moment it comes into existence to the moment it goes out of existence. Those events can then be part of some larger, more human-centric, activity such as an Acquisition.

{
  "@context": "https://linked.art/ns/v1/linked-art.json", 
  "id": "https://linked.art/example/legal/1", 
  "type": "PropertyInterest", 
  "label": "Claim of Ownership", 
  "classified_as": ["aat:300055603"], 
  "interest_for": {
    "id": "https://linked.art/example/object/77", 
    "type": "ManMadeObject", 
    "label": "Example Painting", 
    "classified_as": ["aat:300033618"]
  }, 
  "taken_out_of_existence_by": {
    "id": "https://linked.art/example/event/5", 
    "type": "EndOfExistence", 
    "timespan": {
      "id": "https://linked.art/example/time/17", 
      "type": "TimeSpan", 
      "begin_of_the_begin": "1821-11-27T00:00:00", 
      "end_of_the_end": "1821-11-28T00:00:00"
    }
  }, 
  "brought_into_existence_by": {
    "id": "https://linked.art/example/event/4", 
    "type": "BeginningOfExistence", 
    "timespan": {
      "id": "https://linked.art/example/time/16", 
      "type": "TimeSpan", 
      "begin_of_the_begin": "1743-05-12T00:00:00", 
      "end_of_the_end": "1743-05-13T00:00:00"
    }
  }, 
  "claimed_by": [
    {
      "id": "https://linked.art/example/person/29", 
      "type": "Person", 
      "label": "Owner of Example Painting"
    }
  ]
}

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CIDOC-CRM Arcana

You might be wondering why PropertyInterest isn't just an E30 Right? You almost certainly do not want to read this section that explains the details.

Ownership Rights

The base provenance model and the PropertyInterest extension are completely compatible. The activities that are described at that level have the beginning and ending of existence of the claims as parts. The assertions that make up the PropertyInterest structure can be automatically generated to ensure a consistent model.

In particular, the Production of the object would have a part which is the BeginningOfExistence of the PropertyInterest. If the object is destroyed, then that activity would also have a part of the EndOfExistence of the last PropertyInterest around the object's ownership. In between, any Acquisition would include a TransformingActivity of the previous owner's PropertyInterest into the new owner's PropertyInterest. Transforming Activities end the existence of the "input" to the process (the claim that is transformed) and begin the existence of the "output" of the process (the claim that the process results_in). Thus, the resource is a shortcut for a pair of Beginning and End of Existence events that occur at the same time.

We classify the PropertyInterest as being one of ownership (aat:300055603), as opposed to any other legal status that might be applied to the object.

{
  "@context": "https://linked.art/ns/v1/linked-art.json", 
  "id": "https://linked.art/example/activity/60", 
  "type": "Acquisition", 
  "label": "Purchase of the Example Painting on Jan 1, 2010", 
  "classified_as": ["aat:300077989"], 
  "transferred_title_from": [
    {
      "id": "https://linked.art/example/person/30", 
      "type": "Person", 
      "label": "Seller"
    }
  ], 
  "timespan": {
    "id": "https://linked.art/example/time/18", 
    "type": "TimeSpan", 
    "begin_of_the_begin": "2010-01-01T00:00:00Z", 
    "end_of_the_end": "2010-01-02T00:00:00Z"
  }, 
  "part": [
    {
      "id": "https://linked.art/example/TransformingActivity/0", 
      "type": "TransformingActivity", 
      "resulted_in": [
        {
          "id": "https://linked.art/example/legal/2", 
          "type": "PropertyInterest", 
          "label": "Claim of Ownership by Buyer", 
          "classified_as": ["aat:300055603"], 
          "interest_for": "https://linked.art/example/object/78", 
          "claimed_by": ["https://linked.art/example/person/31"]
        }
      ], 
      "transformed": [
        {
          "id": "https://linked.art/example/legal/3", 
          "type": "PropertyInterest", 
          "label": "Claim of Ownership by Seller", 
          "classified_as": ["aat:300055603"], 
          "interest_for": "https://linked.art/example/object/78", 
          "claimed_by": ["https://linked.art/example/person/30"]
        }
      ]
    }
  ], 
  "transferred_title_of": [
    {
      "id": "https://linked.art/example/object/78", 
      "type": "ManMadeObject", 
      "label": "Example Painting", 
      "classified_as": ["aat:300033618","aat:300133025"]
    }
  ], 
  "transferred_title_to": [
    {
      "id": "https://linked.art/example/person/31", 
      "type": "Person", 
      "label": "Buyer"
    }
  ]
}

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Multiple Owners

A change in ownership might involve more than two parties, resulting in a state where multiple actors together own some share of the object. Examples of this situation include when art dealers share the costs of purchasing an object and then share the proceeds of sale in the same proportions, when a donor gives part of the value of an object to an institution, or when a marriage is dissolved and the value of the object is split between the individuals.

The base provenance model does allow for ownership to be transferred to multiple actors, but it is impossible to then determine the share of the value that was owned by each party. The same is true for transfers of custody and for payments of monetary amounts. The use of the PropertyInterest structure accommodates these cases.

In order to allow for the description of different proportions of the object to be owned by different actors, we need partition the PropertyInterest into shares to be divided. These components are themselves PropertyInterests that are claimed by the respective parties.

In the same way as describing the physical extent of a physical object, we can use a Dimension to describe the logical extent of the ownership claim. At any given time, the total shares of an object should add up to the entire object. If this is not true, then it might signify either that the accounting is wrong (more than 100% of the object is claimed as being owned), theft (multiple claims of ownership at the same time, some of which are illegal), or just that it is now unknown what happened to the remaining value.

{
  "@context": "https://linked.art/ns/v1/linked-art.json", 
  "id": "https://linked.art/example/activity/61", 
  "type": "Acquisition", 
  "label": "Purchase of the Example Painting by two Art Dealers", 
  "classified_as": ["aat:300077989"], 
  "transferred_title_from": [
    {
      "id": "https://linked.art/example/actor/14", 
      "type": "Actor", 
      "label": "Seller"
    }
  ], 
  "part": [
    {
      "id": "https://linked.art/example/TransformingActivity/1", 
      "type": "TransformingActivity", 
      "resulted_in": [
        {
          "id": "https://linked.art/example/legal/4", 
          "type": "PropertyInterest", 
          "label": "Total Claim of Ownership", 
          "classified_as": ["aat:300055603"], 
          "interest_for": "https://linked.art/example/object/79", 
          "interest_part": [
            {
              "id": "https://linked.art/example/legal/5", 
              "type": "PropertyInterest", 
              "label": "Claim of 30% Ownership by Dealer 1", 
              "classified_as": ["aat:300055603"], 
              "claimed_by": ["https://linked.art/example/group/17"], 
              "dimension": [
                {
                  "id": "https://linked.art/example/value/8", 
                  "type": "Dimension", 
                  "value": 30, 
                  "unit": "http://qudt.org/1.1/vocab/unit/Percent"
                }
              ]
            }, 
            {
              "id": "https://linked.art/example/legal/6", 
              "type": "PropertyInterest", 
              "label": "Claim of 70% Ownership by Dealer 2", 
              "classified_as": ["aat:300055603"], 
              "claimed_by": ["https://linked.art/example/group/18"], 
              "dimension": [
                {
                  "id": "https://linked.art/example/value/9", 
                  "type": "Dimension", 
                  "value": 70, 
                  "unit": "http://qudt.org/1.1/vocab/unit/Percent"
                }
              ]
            }
          ]
        }
      ], 
      "transformed": [
        {
          "id": "https://linked.art/example/legal/7", 
          "type": "PropertyInterest", 
          "label": "Claim of Ownership by Seller", 
          "classified_as": ["aat:300055603"], 
          "interest_for": "https://linked.art/example/object/79", 
          "claimed_by": ["https://linked.art/example/actor/14"]
        }
      ]
    }
  ], 
  "transferred_title_to": [
    {
      "id": "https://linked.art/example/group/17", 
      "type": "Group", 
      "label": "Art Dealership 1"
    }, 
    {
      "id": "https://linked.art/example/group/18", 
      "type": "Group", 
      "label": "Art Dealership 2"
    }
  ], 
  "transferred_title_of": [
    {
      "id": "https://linked.art/example/object/79", 
      "type": "ManMadeObject", 
      "label": "Example Painting", 
      "classified_as": ["aat:300033618"]
    }
  ]
}

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Transfer of Shares Amongst Owners

In some situations, the set of owners does not change, however they trade the proportion of ownership of the object amongst themselves. Two scenarios in which this occurs are when a group of dealers value without trading stock, and when individuals make partial gifts over time to a museum or other organization.

As the owners do not change, there is no new Acquisition. Instead, it is the reassignment of the proportions amongst the shares of the claimed ownership. A new PropertyInterest is brought into effect with shares that include the new proportions, and the previous PropertyInterest's effect ends. This process likely also includes other transfers, perhaps of currency via a Payment.

{
  "@context": "https://linked.art/ns/v1/linked-art.json", 
  "id": "https://linked.art/example/activity/62", 
  "type": "Activity", 
  "part": [
    {
      "id": "https://linked.art/example/TransformingActivity/2", 
      "type": "TransformingActivity", 
      "resulted_in": [
        {
          "id": "https://linked.art/example/legal/8", 
          "type": "PropertyInterest", 
          "label": "Previous Total Claim of Ownership", 
          "classified_as": ["aat:300055603"], 
          "interest_for": {
            "id": "https://linked.art/example/object/80", 
            "type": "ManMadeObject", 
            "label": "Example Painting", 
            "classified_as": ["aat:300033618"]
          }, 
          "interest_part": [
            {
              "id": "https://linked.art/example/legal/9", 
              "type": "PropertyInterest", 
              "label": "Claim of 30% Ownership by Dealer 1", 
              "classified_as": ["aat:300055603"], 
              "claimed_by": [
                {
                  "id": "https://linked.art/example/group/19", 
                  "type": "Group", 
                  "label": "Art Dealership 1"
                }
              ], 
              "dimension": [
                {
                  "id": "https://linked.art/example/value/10", 
                  "type": "Dimension", 
                  "value": 30, 
                  "unit": "http://qudt.org/1.1/vocab/unit/Percent"
                }
              ]
            }, 
            {
              "id": "https://linked.art/example/legal/10", 
              "type": "PropertyInterest", 
              "label": "Claim of 70% Ownership by Dealer 2", 
              "classified_as": ["aat:300055603"], 
              "claimed_by": [
                {
                  "id": "https://linked.art/example/group/20", 
                  "type": "Group", 
                  "label": "Art Dealership 2"
                }
              ], 
              "dimension": [
                {
                  "id": "https://linked.art/example/value/11", 
                  "type": "Dimension", 
                  "value": 70, 
                  "unit": "http://qudt.org/1.1/vocab/unit/Percent"
                }
              ]
            }
          ]
        }
      ], 
      "transformed": [
        {
          "id": "https://linked.art/example/legal/11", 
          "type": "PropertyInterest", 
          "label": "New Claim of Ownership", 
          "classified_as": ["aat:300055603"], 
          "interest_for": "https://linked.art/example/object/80", 
          "interest_part": [
            {
              "id": "https://linked.art/example/legal/12", 
              "type": "PropertyInterest", 
              "label": "Claim of 40% Ownership by Dealer 1", 
              "classified_as": ["aat:300055603"], 
              "claimed_by": ["https://linked.art/example/group/19"], 
              "dimension": [
                {
                  "id": "https://linked.art/example/value/12", 
                  "type": "Dimension", 
                  "value": 40, 
                  "unit": "http://qudt.org/1.1/vocab/unit/Percent"
                }
              ]
            }, 
            {
              "id": "https://linked.art/example/legal/13", 
              "type": "PropertyInterest", 
              "label": "Claim of 60% Ownership by Dealer 2", 
              "classified_as": ["aat:300055603"], 
              "claimed_by": ["https://linked.art/example/group/20"], 
              "dimension": [
                {
                  "id": "https://linked.art/example/value/13", 
                  "type": "Dimension", 
                  "value": 60, 
                  "unit": "http://qudt.org/1.1/vocab/unit/Percent"
                }
              ]
            }
          ]
        }
      ]
    }, 
    {
      "id": "https://linked.art/example/activity/63", 
      "type": "Payment", 
      "paid_amount": {
        "id": "https://linked.art/example/money/12", 
        "type": "MonetaryAmount", 
        "value": 100000, 
        "currency": "https://linked.art/example/money/13"
      }, 
      "paid_from": ["https://linked.art/example/group/19"], 
      "paid_to": ["https://linked.art/example/group/20"]
    }
  ]
}

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Theft

Objects can change hands illegally, such as via theft (aat:300055292) or looting (aat:300379554). This is modeled as a new PropertyInterest that is marked as being actually illegal, via aat:300055289, that competes with the actual claim of the owner. This pattern means that when the thief then sells the stolen object to an unsuspecting buyer, the Acquisition is described the same way as any other. It also lets further claims of ownership be layered on top, where the situation is not so clear. If the object is part of reparations or was looted by a government under some oppressive regime, then the Acquisition might be considered legitimate in some contexts and not in others.

{
  "@context": "https://linked.art/ns/v1/linked-art.json", 
  "id": "https://linked.art/example/activity/64", 
  "type": "Acquisition", 
  "label": "Theft of Painting", 
  "classified_as": ["aat:300055292"], 
  "transferred_title_from": [
    {
      "id": "https://linked.art/example/person/32", 
      "type": "Person", 
      "label": "Owner"
    }
  ], 
  "part": [
    {
      "id": "https://linked.art/example/event/6", 
      "type": "BeginningOfExistence", 
      "brought_into_existence": [
        {
          "id": "https://linked.art/example/legal/14", 
          "type": "PropertyInterest", 
          "classified_as": ["aat:300055289","aat:300055603"], 
          "interest_for": "https://linked.art/example/object/81"
        }
      ]
    }
  ], 
  "transferred_title_to": [
    {
      "id": "https://linked.art/example/person/33", 
      "type": "Person", 
      "label": "Unknown Thief"
    }
  ], 
  "transferred_title_of": [
    {
      "id": "https://linked.art/example/object/81", 
      "type": "ManMadeObject", 
      "label": "Example Stolen Painting", 
      "classified_as": ["aat:300033618","aat:300133025"]
    }
  ]
}

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Alternative Model to CIDOC-CRM recommendation

A concern with the CIDOC model of using Transfers of Custody to model theft is that if an object is stolen and only custody transferred, and the object is subsequently sold (illegally) by the thief, then the thief cannot transfer ownership, only further custody in exchange for payment. If it is not known that the object was stolen, then the data would incorrectly record it as a sale, which is an Acquisition rather than Transfer of Custody.