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The Evolution of Property and Property Management


The Evolution of Property and Property Management

What is the definition of property? How has the concept of property changed from one culture to another? What is property management? How is the concept of property management changing today? Take a look.

1) What is the definition of property?

One definition of property is one that we might readily expect:

“ownership; right of possession, enjoyment, or disposal of anything, esp. of something tangible: to have property in land”1

This definition, as many dictionary definitions do, fails to even touch the below the surface of the defined concepts. In other words, it doesn’t help us to understand the footholds upon which the definition depends.

For example, Neil Meyer, a professor at the University of Idaho, might not entirely agree with the compendiary definition offered above. Meyers says that “what is often referred to as property is really the access right to a stream of benefits from a given set of resources.”2 Anther “property thinker” who actually included the Meyer’s quote in an article that I found online also says that “Property rights are a function of what others are willing to acknowledge. The limits on an owner’s actions result from expectations and rights of others as formally sanctioned and sustained by law. The boundary between obligation and right is variable. Patterns in rights and obligations reflect prevailing judgments on what is fair, and people’s values determine fairness. Laws and rules generally reflect the values held by a sufficient number of the people in a social group.“3

Interesting……interesting that the concept of ownership is only actually ownership when agreed upon in the minds of a particular society in general. It is also interesting that our ability to own property becomes weaker as others do not recognize our right to call it such.

“No man is an island……?”4

2) How has the concept of property changed from one culture to another?

In the Old Testament it is interesting to note the various rules and regulations given by the LORD to the people of Israel. Property, or ownership, had a different way of “working itself out.” In fact, the property that the people of Israel lived on could “moderately belong” to a family but only until a law of jubile, laws of Aaronic ownership, country land rules, city land rules and various other “loop holes” stipulated otherwise.5 It can also be affirmed that to the children of Israel, the LORD was the only true owner and thus He could deal with property management issues as He saw fit. However, it is also important to recognize that the children of Israel had to agree in their minds (and perhaps in their hearts) that this could be a true definition of property and property management.

3) What is Property Management?

Property management can refer to the management of a great deal of property. Property can be visible to the naked eye or it can be intellectual. It can be technology or it can be an idea. Property management is the responsibility given to one or more persons to uphold certain standards of property that have supposedly been agreed to by a society or community. Property management may entail the duties now embraced by attorneys (both land and intellectual), policemen, landlords, physical property managers, etc.

4) How is the concept of property management changing today?

The concept of property is changing today in small, yet dramatic ways. Take for example the theory that ideas, including writings, compositions and art, are property. Most people would say that intellectual works are indeed property to be owned by one person or a group of individuals but—putting aside references to imminent moral deterioration—it is obvious that many people (in fact, it would seem that most people in the world today) do not actively respect the idea of intellectual property. Now, there may be many reasons that people do not respect the idea of intellectual property but nevertheless it is apparent—for whatever reason--that the concept of intellectual property is slowly changing and emerging into a world where children will soon grow up to view the concept of in a new and interesting light. After all, couldn’t we argue that it was actually the work that a person did to access an idea that actually already existed that should be remunerated once and that released to free access to the world? That, my friends is what Google wants to do….at least as far as I can tell after reading another interesting article that I found online.6

Take for example the Google vs. Publishers case that I dated as far back as 20057 (not sure when the actual origins of the case were engendered). This case is interesting because Google, unlike Amazon or Yahoo is hoping (or hoped) that the court will (or would) justify an “opt out” approach. Where as Amazon or Yahoo will ask an author for the rights to his or her intellectual work and most likely remunerate him or her for that work, Google wants an approach that will require an author to contact Google in essence and “opt-out” or in other words tell a Google representative that he or she does not approve of his or her work being shown online without remuneration. A paragraph from the article stirred my interest:

“Copyright law, as traditionally applied to the publishing industry, requires affirmative permission from copyright holders before another party can use copyrighted content -- the opt-in approach. But in the Internet world, search engines generally have an implied, non-exclusive license to copy and store web pages, unless the pages' owners choose to withhold permission. That is, these rights holders must explicitly decide to opt out. Google is relying on an "opt-out" content usage model -- the accepted standard for indexing web material. In this way, computer software advances are now testing the limits of traditional copyright law.”7

What do you think will be the future of property (esp. intellectual property) and what of the future of property management? Is it really property that we need to manage or our minds?

Works Cited & References





5 References to these laws and “cultural phenomenons” I think are mostly in the book of Leviticus although referring to the first four books of the Old Testament (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers) might reveal more insightful references and resources.




by Marci Crane
About Marci Crane | property management | Buildium | Innuity |

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