Legal object

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Legal object (or (legal) object ) refers in jurisprudence to an object that is or can be subject to a right of domination by a legal subject. Opposite are the legal subjects.


The legal term comes from general legal theory and is used in both private and public law . In private law, it is to be distinguished from the concept of the object of disposal .

A legal object is everything that can be controlled by humans and assigned to them by the legal system . For the quality of the legal object, it is sufficient that control and assignment are possible in some form. Legal subjects, on the other hand, are those who act , the legal object is what is dealt with. In the best case, the right of domination is expressed by the fact that the owner of a thing has the authority over all other legal subjects to deal with the thing at will and to exclude any other legal subject from affecting the thing ( § 903 BGB ), because the law grants the owner (who is himself a legal subject) legal power over the thing. In relation to the legal subject, everything can be described as a legal object that is not itself a legal subject and can be the object of legal power.

A legal object does not have to belong to someone (as owner or owner ), but can also be abandoned; its controllability is sufficient for the property as a legal object. In the case of abandoned items, this occurs through their appropriation . If it belongs to someone, it does not have to be a single legal entity (e.g. the car to the vehicle owner ) , but several legal entities can also be jointly entitled to a legal object ( joint property in the case of residential property ).

Legal objects are real objects that also exist outside the legal system . They can be divided into physical ( things ) and intangible ( intangible goods ) legal objects.


Slaves had in ancient times no rights, because they were considered property and therefore as legal objects. But it was known in Assyria , Babylonia , Egypt and among the Jews ( 2 Mos 23,12  EU ); ( 5 Mos 5,14  EU ) Regulations on body protection, for example when treating and feeding slaves. At the time of Marcus Antistius Labeo, Roman law knew things ( Latin res ) and slaves ( Latin res in patrimonio ) as legal objects . Here, too, the slave was considered a legal object and as such was owned by his master ( Latin libertus ). He was subject to the rule of his master, who was allowed to exploit , abuse , promote , rent , release , sell or kill him . In Ulpian's time, the slave could also be a legal subject. The legal objects also included women, children, strangers, prisoners of war and animals.

With Christianization , slavery declined in high medieval Central Europe , where Christians were prohibited from selling or buying other Christians as slaves. South of the Alps - for example in the Italian Maritime Republics , the Black Sea region, the Balkans and Egypt - slaves continued to be traded on a large scale.

From the discovery of America in 1492 to 1870, more than 11 million African slaves were sold to America. Most of these (4.1 million) ended up in the British, French, Dutch and Danish colonies in the Caribbean via the transatlantic triangular trade . Almost as many Africans (4 million) were brought to Brazil by Portuguese traders , 2.5 million were sold to the Spanish colonies in South America . The smallest group are the approximately 500,000 African slaves who ended up in the thirteen British colonies on the North American mainland and in the United States , which was founded in July 1776 . The poor working conditions on the cotton , coffee or sugar cane plantations in North America led to low life expectancy and falling birth rates among female slaves.


The legal objects include things ( § 90 BGB), animals ( § 90a BGB), intellectual property ( copyrights , licenses , concessions , patents , trademarks or property rights such as designs or utility models ) and other rights (such as rights in rem or claims ). The author, for example, has legal power over his work according to § 11 UrhG , whereby his copyright is a legal object. Legal subjects themselves and the human body (whether living or dead people) are never legal objects. Parts separated from the body, such as organs before their implantation or extracted teeth, on the other hand, are legal objects. The corpse is a thing, but as a res extra commercium it is not the subject of legal dealings. Even stray rabbits in the field or the electric current are legal objects. The specialty principle applies to legal objects , so that factual entities as such do not represent legal objects. That is why property is not a legal object, but rather its individual components such as jewelry . Also, services can not be a legal object because, although it performs, can not be traded, however.

Highly personal rights such as limited personal servitude are not legal objects due to the lack of transferability .

Relationships between legal subjects and legal objects

Entities pass through legal transactions with each other, for example by declarations of intent give off contracts to complete, commitments received, property purchase or inherit . The legal objects are subject to the control of the legal subjects and addressees of the actions emanating from the legal subjects. If a right holder is entitled to a subjective right without objection , he can assert it against other legal subjects in accordance with the right to conduct. Service relationships between the legal entities usually arise from contractual obligations such as the contract ( Section 311 (1) BGB).

Individual evidence

  1. So Othmar Jauernig . In: ders. BGB. 11th, revised edition. Munich 2004, ISBN 3-406-51820-6 . Before § 90 BGB marg. 1.
  2. ^ So Karl Larenz : General part of German civil law . 7th, revised edition. Munich 1989, ISBN 3-406-33414-8 . § 16, p. 281 ff.
  3. ^ Karl Larenz / Manfred Wolf : General part of civil law . 9th edition. 2004. Section 20 no. 1.
  4. ^ Mathias Habersack : Property law . 7th edition. 2012, ISBN 978-3-8114-9874-7 . § 1 No. 5-13.
  5. Haimo Schack, BGB general part , 2016, § 8 Rn. 149
  6. Hergen Scheck / Birgitt Scheck, Wirtschaftliches Grundwissen , 2007, p. 44
  7. Reinhard Bork, General Part of the Civil Code , 2006, p. 95
  8. ^ Mathias Habersack : Property law . 7th edition. 2012, ISBN 978-3-8114-9874-7 . § 1 No. 6th
  9. Alexander Beck, The Unrechtsconsciousness in the German Criminal Law Drafts , Edition 226, 1927, p. 22
  10. Rudolph Sohm, Institutions of Roman Law , 1923, p. 168
  11. ^ Leonhard Schumacher, Slavery in antiquity: Everyday life and fate of the unfree , 2001, p. 268
  12. Marayke Frantzen, Mors voluntaria in reatu: The suicide in classical Roman law , 2012, p. 121
  13. Josef Frewein, The Animal in Human Culture , 1983, p. 175.
  14. ^ Andrew K. Frank, The Routledge Historical Atlas of the American South , 1999, p. 22
  15. ^ Alpmann Brockhaus, Fachlexikon Recht , 2005, p. 1080
  16. Reinhard Zimmermann, Society, Death and Medical Knowledge , in: NJW 1979, 569 f.
  17. Haimo Schack, BGB general part , 2016, § 8 Rn. 149
  18. Reinhard Bork, General Part of the Civil Code , 2006, p. 97
  19. Winfried Boecken, BGB - General Part , 2007, p. 113
  20. Reinhard Bork, General Part of the Civil Code , 2006, p. 137