Defining Property in the Digital Environment. Part One. A Brief History of Property The evolution of property. While physical goods are protected by a long history of private property rights, digital assets are, to date, essentially unownable. In this three-part series of blog posts we examine and propose solutions to the current problems of digital ownership […]
Historically, Western economic progress has been pushed forward by two incredibly powerful legal frameworks: private property and intellectual property. Before there was any modern notion of private property, all property was owned either by the Crown or the Church. In England, property did not have a legal definition until the 17th century when the term entered popular parlance in reference to land ownership. Monarchs awarded gifts of land to selected individuals by granting them a title (e.g., “Duke,” Earl,” “Lord”) which carried with it ownership rights to a specific parcel of land. These properties were made productive by the commoners who inhabited them as subsistence farmers.