Private property rights are guidelines establishing the ownership and use of property by an individual or group. There are many different types of private property rights, which are protected to different degrees in different societies. The basic right of private property suggests that an individual, or group functioning as an individual, has the lawful right to own, use, sell, and control purchased or inherited property assets. Private property rights and laws tend to prohibit the seizure or unauthorized use of property by persons other than the rightful owner.
Some private property rights determine the regulations and guidelines for physical property. Physical property can be anything in tangible form, including land or buildings. Smaller items, such as furniture, clothing, or vehicles, may also be defined as physical property. Private property rights for physical property tend to make theft or unauthorized use or seizure of personal property illegal and unlawful. In the United States, the Fifth Amendment of the US Constitution protects private property by decreeing that it cannot be taken for public use unless it is fairly paid for by the state.
Private property rights can also manage property that is intangible, such as intellectual rights. Intellectual property refers to creations of the mind, such as artistic works. Copyrights and patents are the normal means of protecting intellectual property rights, by formalizing a common law concept that decrees the inventor the sole owner of his or her inventions. Characters, works of art, titles, and designs are all types of intellectual property for which private property rights can be granted.
Many private property rights systems give the owner the right to control the property. This means that the owner can use the property however he or she wants, and buy, sell, or rent property at his or her discretion. A common exception to this rule is if the property is being used for illegal activities or pursuits, in which case it may be subject to government seizure.
Copyright infringement is another type of private property right that prevents the unauthorized use of intellectual property. Creating, buying, or selling pirated copies of songs, artwork, books, or movies are all forms of private property violations. Most regions recognize, however, that the claim of copyright can only last as long as the original creator or the estate of the creator lives. If a copyright expires, material may become available for public use, since the owner can no longer claim the right of sole management.
Not all regions favor the use of strict private property rights. Capitalist societies tend to have very strong private property rights, as it is seen as vital to the existence of trade and ownership. A person that owns land and must pay taxes will be essentially forced to try to make the land productive, both for his own profit and for tax obligations. Socialist societies tend to follow the idea that private property, at least of productive assets like factories and land, allows for potential assets to be wasted through poor management. Ideally, by allowing public ownership and thus optimized productive capacity of all productive assets, the needs of all citizens, rather than just the owner, can be met.