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": [
    {
      "id": "http://vocab.getty.edu/aat/300055603", 
      "type": "Type", 
      "_label": "Ownership Right"
    }
  ], 
  "interest_for": {
    "id": "https://linked.art/example/object/72", 
    "type": "HumanMadeObject", 
    "_label": "Example Painting", 
    "classified_as": [
      {
        "id": "http://vocab.getty.edu/aat/300033618", 
        "type": "Type", 
        "_label": "Painting"
      }
    ]
  }, 
  "jurisdiction": [
    {
      "id": "https://linked.art/example/place/15", 
      "type": "Place", 
      "_label": "Legal jurisdiction of Claim"
    }
  ], 
  "claimed_by": [
    {
      "id": "https://linked.art/example/person/30", 
      "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 the Property Interest is modeled as a conceptual thing - the claim of ownership - rather than an activity. That claim is then associated with a Phase of the object, the phase in which that claim is related to the object. The Phase manages the time period in the same way as a regular ownership phase does, and can be initiated and terminated in the same way as other ownership phases.

{
  "@context": "https://linked.art/ns/v1/linked-art.json", 
  "id": "https://linked.art/example/activity/67", 
  "type": "Phase", 
  "classified_as": [
    {
      "id": "http://vocab.getty.edu/aat/300055603", 
      "type": "Type", 
      "_label": "Ownership Phase"
    }
  ], 
  "related_entity": {
    "id": "https://linked.art/example/legal/1", 
    "type": "PropertyInterest", 
    "_label": "Claim of Ownership", 
    "classified_as": [
      {
        "id": "http://vocab.getty.edu/aat/300055603", 
        "type": "Type", 
        "_label": "Ownership Right"
      }
    ], 
    "interest_for": {
      "id": "https://linked.art/example/object/73", 
      "type": "HumanMadeObject", 
      "_label": "Example Painting"
    }, 
    "claimed_by": [
      {
        "id": "https://linked.art/example/person/31", 
        "type": "Person", 
        "_label": "Owner of Example Painting"
      }
    ]
  }, 
  "timespan": {
    "id": "https://linked.art/example/time/18", 
    "type": "TimeSpan", 
    "begin_of_the_begin": "1743-05-12T00:00:00", 
    "end_of_the_end": "1821-11-28T00:00:00"
  }, 
  "phase_of": {
    "id": "https://linked.art/example/object/73", 
    "type": "HumanMadeObject", 
    "_label": "Example Painting", 
    "classified_as": [
      {
        "id": "http://vocab.getty.edu/aat/300033618", 
        "type": "Type", 
        "_label": "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 gruesome 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, an Acquisition of the object would initiate the Ownership Phase. This allows other curation activities to occur within that Phase that otherwise would not be connected to the notion of ownership, such as when an art dealer takes inventory. It would also terminate the previous Ownership Phase of the object claimed by the seller.

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. It also makes no assertion about the legality of the claim, allowing it to be used for sale of stolen items.

{
  "@context": "https://linked.art/ns/v1/linked-art.json", 
  "id": "https://linked.art/example/activity/68", 
  "type": "Acquisition", 
  "_label": "Purchase of the Example Painting on Jan 1, 2010", 
  "classified_as": [
    {
      "id": "http://vocab.getty.edu/aat/300077989", 
      "type": "Type", 
      "_label": "Puchasing"
    }
  ], 
  "transferred_title_from": [
    {
      "id": "https://linked.art/example/person/32", 
      "type": "Person", 
      "_label": "Seller"
    }
  ], 
  "initiated": [
    {
      "id": "https://linked.art/example/activity/69", 
      "type": "Phase", 
      "_label": "Ownership by Buyer", 
      "classified_as": [
        {
          "id": "http://vocab.getty.edu/aat/300055603", 
          "type": "Type", 
          "_label": "Ownership Phase"
        }
      ], 
      "related_entity": {
        "id": "https://linked.art/example/legal/2", 
        "type": "PropertyInterest", 
        "_label": "Claim of Ownership", 
        "classified_as": [
          {
            "id": "http://vocab.getty.edu/aat/300055603", 
            "type": "Type", 
            "_label": "Ownership Right"
          }
        ], 
        "interest_for": {
          "id": "https://linked.art/example/object/74", 
          "type": "HumanMadeObject", 
          "_label": "Example Painting"
        }, 
        "claimed_by": [
          {
            "id": "https://linked.art/example/person/33", 
            "type": "Person", 
            "_label": "Buyer"
          }
        ]
      }, 
      "timespan": {
        "id": "https://linked.art/example/time/20", 
        "type": "TimeSpan", 
        "begin_of_the_begin": "2010-01-01T00:00:00Z", 
        "end_of_the_end": "2015-03-21T00:00:00Z"
      }, 
      "phase_of": {
        "id": "https://linked.art/example/object/74", 
        "type": "HumanMadeObject", 
        "_label": "Example Painting"
      }
    }
  ], 
  "timespan": {
    "id": "https://linked.art/example/time/19", 
    "type": "TimeSpan", 
    "begin_of_the_begin": "2010-01-01T00:00:00Z", 
    "end_of_the_end": "2010-01-02T00:00:00Z"
  }, 
  "transferred_title_of": [
    {
      "id": "https://linked.art/example/object/74", 
      "type": "HumanMadeObject", 
      "_label": "Example Painting", 
      "classified_as": [
        {
          "id": "http://vocab.getty.edu/aat/300033618", 
          "type": "Type", 
          "_label": "Painting"
        }, 
        {
          "id": "http://vocab.getty.edu/aat/300133025", 
          "type": "Type", 
          "_label": "Artwork"
        }
      ]
    }
  ], 
  "transferred_title_to": [
    {
      "id": "https://linked.art/example/person/33", 
      "type": "Person", 
      "_label": "Buyer"
    }
  ], 
  "terminated": [
    {
      "id": "https://linked.art/example/activity/70", 
      "type": "Phase", 
      "_label": "Ownership by Seller", 
      "classified_as": [
        {
          "id": "http://vocab.getty.edu/aat/300055603", 
          "type": "Type", 
          "_label": "Ownership Phase"
        }
      ]
    }
  ]
}

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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/71", 
  "type": "Acquisition", 
  "_label": "Purchase of the Example Painting by two Art Dealers", 
  "classified_as": [
    {
      "id": "http://vocab.getty.edu/aat/300077989", 
      "type": "Type", 
      "_label": "Puchasing"
    }
  ], 
  "transferred_title_from": [
    {
      "id": "https://linked.art/example/actor/18", 
      "type": "Actor", 
      "_label": "Seller"
    }
  ], 
  "initiated": [
    {
      "id": "https://linked.art/example/activity/72", 
      "type": "Phase", 
      "classified_as": [
        {
          "id": "http://vocab.getty.edu/aat/300055603", 
          "type": "Type", 
          "_label": "Ownership Phase"
        }
      ], 
      "related_entity": {
        "id": "https://linked.art/example/legal/3", 
        "type": "PropertyInterest", 
        "_label": "Total Claim of Ownership", 
        "classified_as": [
          {
            "id": "http://vocab.getty.edu/aat/300055603", 
            "type": "Type", 
            "_label": "Ownership Right"
          }
        ], 
        "interest_for": {
          "id": "https://linked.art/example/object/75", 
          "type": "HumanMadeObject", 
          "_label": "Example Painting"
        }, 
        "interest_part": [
          {
            "id": "https://linked.art/example/legal/4", 
            "type": "PropertyInterest", 
            "_label": "Claim of 30% Ownership by Dealer 1", 
            "classified_as": [
              {
                "id": "http://vocab.getty.edu/aat/300055603", 
                "type": "Type", 
                "_label": "Ownership Right"
              }
            ], 
            "dimension": [
              {
                "id": "https://linked.art/example/value/8", 
                "type": "Dimension", 
                "value": 30, 
                "unit": {
                  "id": "http://qudt.org/1.1/vocab/unit/Percent", 
                  "type": "MeasurementUnit", 
                  "_label": "Percent"
                }
              }
            ], 
            "claimed_by": [
              {
                "id": "https://linked.art/example/group/21", 
                "type": "Group", 
                "_label": "Art Dealership 1"
              }
            ]
          }, 
          {
            "id": "https://linked.art/example/legal/5", 
            "type": "PropertyInterest", 
            "_label": "Claim of 70% Ownership by Dealer 2", 
            "classified_as": [
              {
                "id": "http://vocab.getty.edu/aat/300055603", 
                "type": "Type", 
                "_label": "Ownership Right"
              }
            ], 
            "dimension": [
              {
                "id": "https://linked.art/example/value/9", 
                "type": "Dimension", 
                "value": 70, 
                "unit": {
                  "id": "http://qudt.org/1.1/vocab/unit/Percent", 
                  "type": "MeasurementUnit", 
                  "_label": "Percent"
                }
              }
            ], 
            "claimed_by": [
              {
                "id": "https://linked.art/example/group/22", 
                "type": "Group", 
                "_label": "Art Dealership 2"
              }
            ]
          }
        ]
      }
    }
  ], 
  "transferred_title_of": [
    {
      "id": "https://linked.art/example/object/75", 
      "type": "HumanMadeObject", 
      "_label": "Example Painting", 
      "classified_as": [
        {
          "id": "http://vocab.getty.edu/aat/300033618", 
          "type": "Type", 
          "_label": "Painting"
        }
      ]
    }
  ], 
  "transferred_title_to": [
    {
      "id": "https://linked.art/example/group/21", 
      "type": "Group", 
      "_label": "Art Dealership 1"
    }, 
    {
      "id": "https://linked.art/example/group/22", 
      "type": "Group", 
      "_label": "Art Dealership 2"
    }
  ]
}

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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.

XXX Still true

top = Activity()
what = Painting()
what._label = "Example Painting"
d1 = Group()
d1._label = "Art Dealership 1"
d2 = Group()
d2._label = "Art Dealership 2"
unit = MeasurementUnit("http://qudt.org/1.1/vocab/unit/Percent")
unit._label = "Percent"

newclaim = vocab.OwnershipRight()
newclaim._label = "Previous Total Claim of Ownership"
newclaim.interest_for = what

newclaim1 = vocab.OwnershipRight()
newclaim1._label = "Claim of 30% Ownership by Dealer 1"
newclaim1.claimed_by = d1
dim1 = Dimension()
dim1.value = 30
dim1.unit = unit
newclaim1.dimension = dim1
newclaim.interest_part = newclaim1

newclaim2 = vocab.OwnershipRight()
newclaim2._label = "Claim of 70% Ownership by Dealer 2"
newclaim2.claimed_by = d2
dim2 = Dimension()
dim2.value = 70
dim2.unit = unit
newclaim2.dimension = dim2
newclaim.interest_part = newclaim2

oldclaim = vocab.OwnershipRight()
oldclaim._label = "New Claim of Ownership"
oldclaim.interest_for = what

oldclaim1 = vocab.OwnershipRight()
oldclaim1._label = "Claim of 40% Ownership by Dealer 1"
oldclaim1.claimed_by = d1
dim1 = Dimension()
dim1.value = 40
dim1.unit = unit
oldclaim1.dimension = dim1
oldclaim.interest_part = oldclaim1

oldclaim2 = vocab.OwnershipRight()
oldclaim2._label = "Claim of 60% Ownership by Dealer 2"
oldclaim2.claimed_by = d2
dim2 = Dimension()
dim2.value = 60
dim2.unit = unit
oldclaim2.dimension = dim2
oldclaim.interest_part = oldclaim2

xform = Transformation()
xform.transformed = oldclaim
xform.resulted_in = newclaim
top.part = xform

pay = Payment()
pay.paid_from = d1
pay.paid_to = d2
amnt = MonetaryAmount()
amnt.value = 100000
curr = Currency()
curr._label = "dollars"
amnt.currency = curr
pay.paid_amount = amnt
top.part = pay

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.

XXX Yup.

top = Theft()
top._label = "Theft of Painting"
what = Painting(art=1)
what._label = "Example Stolen Painting"
top.transferred_title_of = what
who = Person()
who._label = "Owner"
top.transferred_title_from = who
who = Person()
who._label = "Unknown Thief"
top.transferred_title_to = who
when = TimeSpan()
when._label = "Time of Theft"
when.begin_of_the_begin = "1940-07-10T00:00:00Z"
when.end_of_the_end = "1940-07-11T00:00:00Z"

claim = vocab.OwnershipRight()
claim.classified_as = instances['crime']
claim.interest_for = what
begin = BeginningOfExistence()
begin.brought_into_existence = claim
top.part = begin

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.