QUESTION: A wrote B a love letter. Who owns the letter?


This was a question raised Ms. Gilda Flores on August 30, 2017 at 4:06PM on Facebook. Honestly, it is a good question and should be asked in the Bar.

Before we answer the question, we should notice that it is an unqualified question which may require a qualified answer. Hence, we should use the it-depends response. Also note that this appears to be a civil law question. More particularly, it involves the law on property. However, this question may also be viewed through the lenses of the law on intellectual property regarding the contents of the letter (RA 8293, Section 178.6).  ADVERTISEMENT Work from home! Be an online English tutor. Earn at least PHP100/hour.

IMPORTANT NOTE! Opinion has been expressed that the word "wrote" has, in its ordinary use, the meaning of "write and deliver," as in, "She wrote me a letter last month. I have not responded yet." In view of this, the SUGGESTED ANSWER answer below may suffer some inaccuracies. SUGGESTED ANSWER:

A owns the letter.

Under the law on property, ownership is transferred, among other means, by tradition. Ownership may only be derived from the delivery (tradition) of a thing (Fidelity Deposit Co. v. Wilson). Tradition may be physical or constructive.

Constructive tradition may be symbolical, by public instrument, by long hand, by short hand, by constitutum possessorium, by quasi-tradition or by law.

In the case at bar, there is no showing that the letter has already been delivered to B, either constructively or actually. Hence, ownership is retained by A. Had the facts shown that B has already received the letter, ownership would pertain to him. This, however, is not the case. Therefore, A owns the letter.

MORE ACCURATE ANSWER:

Ms. Sel Leynes suggested a more accurate provision in the Civil Code that may provide an answer to this question. Behold Article 723 which provides, "Letters and other private communications in writing are owned by the person to whom they are addressed and delivered, but they cannot be published or disseminated without the consent of the writer or his heirs. However, the court may authorize their publication or dissemination if the public good or the interest of justice so requires."

Despite this, Project Jurisprudence still maintains the view that the SUGGESTED ANSWER above retains its dignity since Article 723 still requires also that letters and other private communications in writing be "addressed and delivered." ADVERTISEMENT Work from home! Be an online English tutor. Earn at least PHP100/hour.

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