Unowned property

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Unowned property refers to tangible, physical things which are capable of being reduced to being property owned by an individual, but are not owned by anyone. Nearly every piece of land on the Earth is property and has a maintainer (owner). The class of objects, "unowned things", are objects which are not yet property; either because it has been agreed by sovereign nations that no one can own them, or because no person, or other entity, has made a claim of ownership.

The most common unowned things are asteroids. The UN's Outer Space Treaty does not address the issue of private ownership of natural objects in space. All asteroids remain unowned things until some person or entity makes a claim of property right to one of them.

In an experimental legal case of first impression, a lawsuit for a declaratory judgment was filed in a United States Federal Court to determine the lawful owner of Asteroid 433 Eros. 433 Eros was claimed as property by Gregory W. Nemitz of Orbital Development. According to the homestead principle, Nemitz argued that he had the right to claim ownership of any celestial body that he made use of; he claimed he had designated Eros a spacecraft parking facility and wished to charge NASA a parking and storage fee of twenty cents per year for its NEAR Shoemaker spacecraft that is permanently stored there. Nemitz's case was dismissed due to lack of standing and an appeal denied.[1]

Ferae naturae[edit]

Ferae naturae is a Latin legal term referring to wild animals, in contrast to domitae naturae (domestic animals).[2]

In property law, ferae naturae residing on unowned real property are not predisposed to one party or another in regards to possession.

See: Pierson v. Post (3 Cai. R. 175, 2 Am. Dec. 264) (Supreme Court of New York 1805)

In the event that the animals are on a private entity's estate, the owner of the estate, if pursuing or attempting to apprehend ferae naturae is likely to be deemed, by the court, the rightful possessor to the title of the animal.

See: Keeble v Hickeringill, 11 East 574, 103 Eng. Rep. 1127 OR 3 Salk. 9 (as Keeble v Hickeringhall) Queen's Bench, 1707

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Eros Project
  2. ^ 4 American Jurisprudence 2d ed. Animals § 2