Res communis

Res communis is a Latin term derived from Roman law that preceded today's concepts of the commons and common heritage of mankind.[1] It has relevance in international law and common law.

In sixth century C.E., the Institutes of Justinian codified the relevant Roman law as: “By the law of nature these things are common to mankind - the air, running water, the sea, and consequently the shores of the sea.” [2]

Biological examples of res communis include fish and mammals in high seas.[3] Rules for use of the continent Antarctica[4][5] were based on res communis as was development of space law.

The term can be contrasted with res nullius, the concept of ownerless property, associated for example with terra nullius, the concept of unowned territory by which British settlement in Australia was arguably based, despite being home to indigenous peoples.


  1. ^ Baslar, Kemal (1997). The Concept of the Common Heritage of Mankind in International Law. Brill. ISBN 9789041105059. Retrieved 25 March 2014.
  2. ^ Barresi, Paul (2012). "MOBILIZING THE PUBLIC TRUST DOCTRINE IN SUPPORT OF PUBLICLY OWNED FORESTS AS CARBON DIOXIDE SINKS IN INDIA AND THE UNITED STATES" (PDF). Colorado Journal of International Environmental Law and Policy. 23 (1): 47. Retrieved 25 March 2014.
  3. ^ Milun, Kathryn (2010). The Political Uncommons: The Cross-cultural Logic of the Global Commons. Ashgate. p. 58. ISBN 978-0-7546-7139-8. Retrieved 25 March 2014.
  4. ^ Joyner, Christopher (1992). Antarctica and the Law of the Sea. p. 90. ISBN 0792318234. Retrieved 25 March 2014.
  5. ^ Slomanson, William (2010). Fundamental Perspectives on International Law. p. 288. ISBN 978-0495797197. Retrieved 25 March 2014.