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What Are Property Rights?

Property rights are the legal entitlements that define ownership and usage of resources, such as land or intellectual property. They ensure that owners can control their assets. Curious about how these rights shape economies and societies? Dive deeper into the world of property rights with us.
Renee Booker
Renee Booker

Most judicial systems throughout the world recognize property rights. The types and extent to which rights to property are recognized and/or protected vary widely throughout the world. As a rule, property can be either real, personal, or intellectual property. In addition, property can be classified as either private or public property. What a person may or may not legally do with his or her property falls within the purview of property rights.

In most judicial systems, real property refers to real estate or land. Who may own real property, how the title may be held, and what rights the owner has to buy, sell, or improve the land are all considered part of his or her property rights. In addition, whether or not the owner to real property has the right to exclude the public, or even law enforcement, are also considered part of his or her property rights. Within the United States, for example, real property may be owned by anyone over the age of 18 and may be titled in a number of different ways. The owner of real property generally has rights to privacy that allow him or her to prevent the public, and even the police absent a search warrant, from entering the property.

A library is considered public property.
A library is considered public property.

To what the property specifically refers varies depending on the title given, whether personal or intellectual. Personal property generally includes tangible things that belong to a person, such as a purse, a vehicle, or a watch. As the name implies, a person generally has an absolute right to his or her personal property that cannot be infringed upon. Intellectual property refers to the ideas, creative works, designs, or inventions of a person. In most countries throughout the world, intellectual property rights may be copyrighted, which prevents the unauthorized use or reproduction of a person's intellectual property.

Property rights often pertain to land.
Property rights often pertain to land.

The concept of public property generally refers to property where the public is customarily invited or allowed access to. A lake, park or public roadway would all be considered public property. Although they may each be owned by someone, they are referred to as public property based on the use of the property, not the ownership status.

Not all judicial systems recognize the breadth of property rights that the United States recognizes. Many cultures, for instance, do not afford women the same rights to own property as men have. Furthermore, many legal systems do not recognize the rights to privacy with regard to property that are recognized in the United States. In many countries throughout the world, for example, a law enforcement officer does not need a court order or search warrant to enter a home or to seize personal property.

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    • A library is considered public property.
      By: Lisa F. Young
      A library is considered public property.
    • Property rights often pertain to land.
      By: Sascha Burkard
      Property rights often pertain to land.