Issue 343: End of Existence for Rights

Starting Date: 

Posted by Robert Sanderson on 15/8/2017

Dear all,

We are looking to express a Right that applies to an Object, such as Ownership. As the Right only applies for a limited duration, we had though to create the Right as part of the Acquisition of the Object and then to have it be taken out of existence by the subsequent Acquisition.  Thus the Right, which as previously discussed is specific to the people and objects involved, would only be documented as existing when the specific people actually own the Object. 

However, Rights are Conceptual Objects, which state in their scope notes:

> They [Conceptual Objects] cannot be destroyed. They exist as long as they can be found on at least one carrier or in at least one human memory. Their existence ends when the last carrier and the last memory are lost

So although Rights are Persistent Items and can thus have an End of Existence, the scope note for Conceptual Object clarifies that they only actually have an End of Existence when there is no memory of them. This means for all practical purposes that it can never be used, as if there is no memory of it, then there could be no description in CRM of it.

This means that we cannot ascribe an end to the Right without ignoring the scope notes for Conceptual Object? Or is there another method to provide time-limited scope to the application of the legal privileges that the E30 embodies?

Posted by George Bruseker on 15/8/2017

Dear Rob et al.,

I would say that the modelling of conceptual object and its begin/end relation is correct also in this instance. It is not the existence of the right qua concept that terminates when the right over something expires. I would argue that the right can exist before it comes into validity or goes out of it. A right qua power over x lasts as long as its validity. We seem to have an equivocation of what we want to invoke by this class, the right qua concept or qua power over. Might want to think more about the scope note. But modelling wise, I think it might be addressed by having a new property for validity period which would define the limits of the right qua power and be distinct from its existence.

As an example to support my case, I would say that Michael Jackson’s Right over the Beatles Catalogue from 1985-2006 continues to exist qua conceptual object to this very moment (there are many carriers of this idea and we are referring to it now), but its validity period has definitely expired and is more or less known. 

Posted by Stephen Stead on 15/8/2017

Dear Rob, George and all,
George is absolutely correct that the right is the conceptual object of the right itself regardless of whether it is current or not. I do not agree that we need some new link from the right to time. The simple construct is to use an E7 Activity that uses a specific object (P16) (The right) and has a participant Actor in a specific role. If the right is on another object then that object is also a used specific object  (remember P16.1 mode of use is also available). I think this covers the scenarios that Rob is trying to deal with but would be very interested to see if there are other problem situations.

Posted by George on 15/8/2017

Hir Steve!

I can see the logic of that solution. First, that seems like an elegant solution which does not require adding properties.

Some quandaries though, for discussion. When we speak of the right of ‘ownership’ for example over x, do we speak of the one unique right of ownership that can be had over the thing and therefore it is one and only ever one? (it might have other right types as well, again uniquely bound to this one thing). This would mean concretely that we would say that for any man made thing, it will have one right of type ownership that is used at this time by actor z and at that time by actor q. Or do we think that the identity of the right is somehow linked to the actor claiming the right, so that it is the act of the claim of ownership of by X which creates the right (which may or may not be backed by something). In this case we could potentially have multiple rights of type ownership being used or claimed at the same time.

As I write, it makes me wonder if ‘use’ would be semantically accurate, in the sense that I am not necessarily exercising the right at any moment, I just hold or possess or claim it. The relation seems somehow more declarative and passive than the concrete action of using. (I imagine your counter-argument would be that this can be sufficiently denoted using the .1 property.)

My intuition on the idea of the declarative time is simply that what we may know and document in the db/kb could be the temporal extent of supposed validity of the ownership claim (established or no) which could also differ from the coming into existence of the right as such. I imagine perhaps the scenario of trying to get dig rights over a certain archaeological site. This tends to be quite a tedious and extended exercise. The application for the right would, in one way of thinking, bring the right into being and we might want to reason on that. e.g.: How long on average does it take archaeologists to get rights to dig on sites of type x comparatively from 1960-2010 in place y? Then, I imagine, the right itself qua power, would have a different time. I apply in 2012 and get rights for 2013-2016.

So perhaps it is a question of begin and end conditions of the right (which are not presently specified in the scope note). Does a right come to be with the object as such and is claimed or no? Making a doorknob implies that a right was generated that can or cannot be used/possessed/claimed by some actor and will continue to exist until the object is forgotten (and therefore the possibility of owning it). Or do we think that a right comes into being when someone claims it/declares it etc.?

Anyhow, I see the merits of your modelling suggestion, just curious about whether the issue raised raises the need to be more explicit in the scope note for right.

Posted by Stephen Stead on 15/8/2017

Hiya George
Using our basic principles:-
a] if we don't understand/know something model it as loosely as possible (or not at all!)
b] model based on actual data structures and schema
I suspect that there are many different types of Right that exist regardless of recognition and others that exist only when "claimed" in some way and that we should avoid modelling these unless we have concrete examples of their use and a good understanding of the identity criteria etc for them.
At the moment we can probably use P16.1 to differentiate sufficiently well for current use cases.
Part of the general requirement for data integration is to allow multiple opinions to be present in the KB so I would have thought that not tying the Right to a particular user who is exercising it would make integration easier. Thus if we have several different opinions about the Ownership of an object by different people for different periods of time. In would be easier to find those if all the opinions used the same instance of Right. Though of course we could reconcile that they were all one thing because they would all be linked to the same thing being owned.
We probably need to spend a bit of thinking time using the "Is this a good concept" criteria to hone the definition.

Posted by Robert Sanderson on 15/8/2017Dear Stephen, George, all,

To make sure that we’re on the same page, if Rights are to be treated as concepts rather than the legal application of the concept, then I can conceive of the Right that I personally own Van Gogh’s “Irises”.  Not even that I am claiming to own the painting, just the notion of a theoretical ownership. I can write that down on a piece of paper and sneak it into our archive, ensuring that there is at least one carrier of this Right.  Thus, I could legitimately assert the existence of a Right, which applies to Irises and is possessed by me … correct?   And the creation of the idea is unrelated to the claimed period over which the rights are asserted to be possessed – I can conceive of my ownership lasting precisely 15 minutes, in the future. So the utility of “Right” as a class is very limited – it has nothing to do with the actual legal right of ownership (despite the scope note), it is instead an idea of ownership that makes no claim about reality.

If this is a correct understanding, it would be good to update the scope notes for E30 to clarify that it’s not the actual legal privileges in any meaningful sense.

The full extent of what we’re trying to capture is the situation where different parties have (legally or just by agreement between them) hold different shares in the object.  For example, a partial gift to a museum, where the value transfers over time from the donor to the museum (for tax reasons, one imagines), or for situations where art dealers collaborate to purchase an object, and then share the profits of sale in the same proportions (a good example of distinct ownership versus physical custody!).

In order to capture the proportion of ownership as a Dimension, we were very happy that has_dimension has a domain of Thing … and thus can be used with Conceptual Object and Right.  Right can be partitioned with has component from E89.  Thus:

_:r1 a Right ;
  applies_to <painting> ;
  possessed_by <group> ;
  has_component [
      a Right ;
      has_dimension [
          a Dimension ;
          has_value 70 ;
          has_unit <percentage> ] ;
      possessed_by <member1> ] ,   
      a Right ;
      has_dimension [
           a Dimension ;
           has_value 30 ;
           has_unit <percentage> ;
      possessed_by <member2> ] .

<group> a Group ;
      has_current_or_former_member <member1>, <member2> . 

Thus, to avoid the transfer of a Right (which cannot be modeled, per previous discussions), we create and destroy hierarchical Rights similar to the example above.

I agree with George that a new property to assert that the [notion of the] Right applies over a particular timespan would be the easiest solution.  Then has_type can be used to distinguish between actually legal Rights, and ones that are not legally valid or binding.  This would also make the sale of stolen objects significantly easier to model – it is the creation of a Right, with a has_type for its illegal status, that applies during the period until the item is discovered to have been stolen.

In terms of activities, I don’t think that quite fits, even with the problematic-in-RDF P16.1.  I could assert that Stephen possesses the reproduction rights for the Mona Lisa … that doesn’t imply that Stephen carried out any activity.