On the Duties Which Result from Ownership Per Se

1. Out of the introduction of ownership these duties have come into being among men: in the first place, that every man is bound to allow another (not a public enemy) to enjoy his possessions in quiet, and not bring himself to injure them, make off with them, or appropriate them, by force or by fraud. By this duty thefts, robberies, and similar crimes aimed at the property of others, are forbidden.

2. In the second place, when a thing belonging to another has come into our hands without our guilt, and with good faith on our part, and we still have it in our power, we are bound, so far as in us lies, to bring about its return to the power of its legitimate owner. We are not, however, bound to restore it at our expense, and if we have incurred any in order to keep it, we have a right to recover, or to retain the thing until the expenses have been paid. And we are not actually bound to restore until we are informed that the thing belongs to another. For then we are bound to report that the article is in our possession, and that, so far as we are concerned, it is open to the owner to recover it. But if we have acquired the thing by a just title, we are not ourselves bound to call the matter in doubt, and as by a public proclamation to ask if anyone wishes to claim it as his own. And this duty outweighs particular contracts, and allows an exception to them; for example, if a thief shall deposit stolen goods with me unaware of the theft, and later the true owner appears, I shall be bound to restore the property to him, not to the thief.

3. In the third place, if a thing belonging to another, acquired in good faith, has been consumed, it is the part of duty to restore to the owner an amount equal to that by which we have been enriched, that we may not gain by another's undeserved loss.

4. From these duties then the following conclusions are derived:

(1) A bona fide possessor is not bound to make any restitution, if the thing has perished, because he has neither the thing itself, nor gain therefrom.

5. (2) A bona fide possessor is bound to restore not only the thing, but also the still existing fruits of it. For naturally the owner of the thing is also owner of the fruits. But the possessor may subtract all expenses incurred for the thing or its care, that the fruits might be obtained.

6. (3) A bona fide possessor is bound to restore the thing and the fruits that have been consumed, provided he would otherwise have consumed as much, and can recover the value of the thing he is obliged to restore from him of whom he received it. For in consuming another's property and sparing his own he has enriched himself.

7. (4) A bona fide possessor is not bound to make good fruits which he has neglected. For he has neither the thing, nor anything that has taken its place.

8. (5) If a bona fide possessor has had something belonging to another presented to him, and then presents it to a third party, he is not bound, unless in any case he was going to make an equal gift in consequence of some duty. For then it will be a gain to have spared his own property.

9. (6) If a bona fide possessor has for a real consideration acquired something belonging to another, and has then alienated it in any way, he is not bound, except in so far as he has made gain out of it.

10. (7) A bona fide possessor is bound to restore another's property, even though acquired for a real consideration, and cannot reclaim what he has spent from the owner, but only from the person from whom he received the thing; except in case the owner could probably not have recovered possession of his property without some expense, or has voluntarily offered a reward for information.

11. The finder of something which the owner was probably sorry to lose, cannot take it up with the intention of withholding it from the owner when he comes to inquire. But when the owner does not appear, the finder has a right to retain it for himself.

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