Res extra commercium

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Res extra commercium (lat. "a thing outside commerce") is a doctrine originating in Roman law,[1] holding that certain things may not be the object of private rights, and are therefore insusceptible to being traded.

In some contexts, it can refer to areas beyond national borders, such as space and the seabed; "these regions are subject to a common freedom of exploitation without exercising national sovereignty."[2]

If one conceives of a world community made up "of sovereign, territorial states ... [the implication is] that the space between these states is res extra commercium, a space that, because of its position and function within this community, is disassociated from the full package of rights to possession, exclusion, and alienation that normally may be claimed by holders of property."[3]


  1. ^ Rudolph Sohm, The Institutes: A Textbook of the History and System of the Roman Private Law 320-3 (1901).
  2. ^ Kemal Baslar, The Concept of the Common Heritage of Mankind in International Law 41-2 (1998).
  3. ^ Philip Steinberg, The Social Construction of the Ocean 91 (2001).