Where to Find Ownerless Things, or What the Civil Code is for?

Contemporary Polish provisions concerning appropriation – art. 180 and 181 of the Civil Code – are very closely based on the Roman law. The one, but crucial, deviation is the narrowing of the category of ownerless things. In the historical process many types of things that could be appropriated by the ancient Romans, such as war bounties or wild game, were excluded from that tier. Today the category of ownerless things is virtually empty inasmuch as significant representatives thereof are meteorites, ambers and garbage. However, in many jurisdictions around the world the ownership of meteorites is separately regulated, and this legislative tendency is embodied in the European Union’s waste directive, which calls into question the ownerless statute of garbage. Academics embroiled in research of these issues tend to look for answers in the specific provisions in the first place, using the Civil Code almost as an all-encompassing source of law. It is these examples and tendencies that demonstrate how far the decodification of the civil law has proceeded. The Civil Code provisions in issue, although originally meant to be sufficient to determine whether a thing can be appropriated or not, in fact have reached a point of being almost utterly absolved of its normative content. It appears that notwithstanding the generic character of the dispute pertaining to the acquisition of property it is inevitable to lead evidence and seek answers outside the code.

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