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Nondominium is a new form of property applied to a resource. It is a multistakeholder associative agreement that re-frames property as relationships rather than things, specifying certain rights and obligations.

We can say that under this property regime a resource owns itself or it is not owned by anyone (in traditional terms) but anyone has access to it, based on a predefined set of rules, specifying certain rights and obligations. The term autonomous resource is also used. It was first proposed by Chris Cook with the following original intention: "Many indigenous peoples, such as American Indians and Australian Aborigines, find it impossible to understand how anyone can own land". It is the expression find it impossible to understand that must be underlined here. Therefore nondominium is used for assets for which the notion of ownership cannot be applied: no one can own, even if they wanted to. - Reference

The role of the agent is split into two:

  • Custodian: Has passive foundational rights of veto (like a covenant or golden share) in accord with the founding purpose of the venture. Although it can say what you cannot do, it cannot tell you what to do.
  • Steward: May be the active developer, operator or maintainer of the venture’s key asset/s.
Covenant: A condition in a contract such as a deed or lease, nonperformance or violation of which gives rise to a cause of action for breach.

The consent of the two parties playing these roles are required.

When it comes to rights, there are two types:

  • a right "in rem" (literally in the thing), a property right that has no name attached to it, acting as an independent object until we create an instrument that links it with a subject through a relationship (in the form of subject–predicate–object expressions). Ex. freehold ownership that you can buy and sell.
  • a right "in personam", a property right that specifies rights and responsibilities for use, without rights to transfer (sell or buy), i.e. no absolute rights. Ex. Leasehold, rights to assign the lease but not to exchange; check or invoice, right to pass to someone else but not spend them directly. It usually corresponds to a responsibility placed on the mentioned person or group

Remixed from a Chris Cook interview.

So nondominium is about a right "in personam" granted to a Custodian and to a Steward, with no right "in rem" to anyone.

See also the p2p Wiki.

Nondominium resources are capture resistant from within and outside.


The Bitcoin Network is a great example of a shared asset under the nondominium property regime: no one can own it, in the traditional sense of the term. In fact, it is impossible to apply right "in rem" or some type of private property to the entire network. It is also important to note that there are no mechanisms to gain total control of the network without destroying the network, as trust in the network can only exist in a distributed manner. Also, right "in rem" or private property operates within the network: minors own their computers. But no independent minor can offer the Bitcoin service of token transfer. Bitcoin as a utility is an emergent property of multiple minors sharing the same protocol. This emergent feature is a nondominium type of property. This is legally codifies as mutual or associative agreements.

In another possible simple implementation, nondominium is a legal framework whereby all ownership rights and obligations over a resource are transferred to a trust, a Custodian, established for that purpose. The Custodian acts in accordance with the Custodian Agreement, which is comprised of a Charter to return a subset of the use rights to the individuals based on a predefined set of rules. This set of rules can be embodied as a benefits distribution algorithm, which provides access to nondominium resources based on merit (or some other set of credentials), which is computed in real time based on past contributions or involvement in a project or venture. The Sensorica Montreal lab, where affiliates of the OVN perform hardware prototyping activities, is under the nondominium property regime. But the nondominium property regime of the lab is also enforced by the fact that the materials (consumables, tools and equipment) in the space is an aggregate composed of materials brought in by various individuals, some of which are under private property regime, others into a shared property regime (see more on inventory). If someone tries to enclose or capture these materials all the individual owners of these shared assets can pull the out, thus the lab, as a capacity for hardware prototyping dissipates.

Blockchain implementation

Ricardian contract can be used to put a material asset under the nondominium property regime. These assets can them form pools of shareable.

See also