Art and Culture Law

Art law is a unique specialty area of the law. After all, art occupies many roles in our culture and serves many functions for businesses, governments, museums, families, and artists. Art can be a form of expression, it can be a decoration, it can be a currency, and it can serve as the basis for many careers. Common issues for art law include how works of art should be valued, how to protect intellectual property rights in art, free speech issues, authenticating and dealing with stolen artworks, and a variety of business issues related to the art industry.

Art valuation is particularly important for determining tax consequences of dealing in art and for testamentary purposes. It also has relevance to insurance claims disputes, and when using the art pieces for collateral when obtaining a loan. And, of course, when one chooses to donate all or a portion of their art collection to a museum or other nonprofit organization, the value of the art can have important consequences to both the donor and the donee for taxes, insurance, and in retaining not-for-profit status.

Intellectual property interests in art include protecting copyrights to various works and determining whether a piece was created independently or as a work for hire. A common question is whether a work has been illegally copied or not. Another issue is whether an artwork can be moved from its original installation or not.

Free speech issues in art often relate to whether something is art or obscenity. Occasionally, issues about free speech may also relate to whether something is art or a violation of some other law. For example, is “tagging” or spray painted graffiti, a form of protected artistic expression or a crime?

The resources below will provide you with additional information on art law, and you can find an attorney in your area who focuses on art law under the “Law Firms” tab, above.


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Articles About Art and Cultural Property Law

  • Why Your Music Band May Need an LLC in California
    In the beginning, things are great with your band, spending long afternoons jamming in your living room. The last thing you ever think about is needing a business lawyer for musicians.
  • Why Fashion Professional Should Employ a Qualified Fashion Attorney
    The global fashion industry has emerged in the 21st century as one of the fast-growing and most dynamic economic sectors in the world.
  • Hollywood Defamation Lawsuit Heats Up
    Defamation (untrue statements that damage a reputation) is becoming more widespread as a cause of litigation, as the internet makes it increasingly easy for these messages to spread. Many new lawsuits pertain to false reviews of, or malicious attacks on, businesses. Yet as one lawsuit between two Hollywood heavyweights reminds us, "old fashioned" defamation still occurs as well - and spreads just as easily.
  • The "Blurred Lines" of Copyright Law
    When a jury found that Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams' hit song "Blurred Lines" infringed Marvin Gaye's "Got to Give it Up," the world was shocked, and the music industry panicked. Here, we explain why the year Gaye's song came out was a major factor in outcome - and why, if it had been written only a short time later, the verdict may have been different.
  • Did You Know There Are Laws Against Dancing?
    Prom, homecoming, and other formal dances are rites of passage for millions of American youth. So, it is perhaps surprising to many that such an activity may be regulated by the law, but in many jurisdictions it is. And, we are not talking about exotic or belly or other suggestive types of dancing. These laws apply to any kind of dancing, including the stuff your grandparents were doing. So, what are some of the more unusual laws against dancing?
  • Is Body Paint Considered Clothing
    Many have wondered whether body paint is sufficient covering to be considered clothing such that a person could not be arrested for public nudity. This question becomes popular particularly around holidays like Halloween, but has often come up with relation to art projects, political protests, and even sporting events. As with so many things in the law, the answer is unsatisfactorily vague.
  • Laws Regarding Graffiti and Art
    Graffiti is an unusual topic in the art world. Several artists have become iconic for their graffiti art works, like Keith Haring and Banksy. But how does the law deal with the debate between free expression, art, and the crime of defacing others' properties?
  • When Law Enforcement Cannot Solve It, Private Recovery Agency Tracks Stolen Art
    What happens when famous pieces of art are stolen and law enforcement leads run dry? Private recovery agencies are called upon to bring back these multimillion dollar masterpieces, often taking years to track the work, earning staggering fees, and blurring the line between legal and illegal activities.
  • What to Do with Art That Is Material to the Patentability of Your Pending U.S. Patent Application
    Under U.S. Patent law, inventors and other individuals substantively involved with the preparation and/or prosecution of the application, such as assignees and patent attorneys, have a duty to disclose to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), information which is material to patentability of the claimed invention.
  • Protect Your Artwork
    This article will arm you with the knowledge you need to protect your artwork or photographs, and put to rest some common myths.
  • All Leisure Law Articles

    Articles written by attorneys and experts worldwide discussing legal aspects related to Leisure including: art and cultural property, entertainment law, gaming, hospitality law, sports and recreation, tourism and travel.

Art and Cultural Property Law - US

  • ABA - Art and Cultural Heritage Law Committee

    This committee is composed of attorneys with an interest in the field of art, cultural heritage, and cultural property law and who work in a variety of settings, including private practice, museums, government, and academia. This area of law is concerned with both movable and immovable property of artistic, cultural, religious and historic interest.

  • Art Law and Cultural Property - Case Law and Statutes

    This section contains an extensive body of primarily U.S. case law, including both litigated cases and, notably, hard-to-find, out-of-court settlements. The material is organized under eight topics. Under each topic, relevant cases are summarized (where possible, with images of the art objects in question). There are also links to relevant U.S. statutes, foreign legislation and a glossary.

  • Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (Paris Text 1971)

    The countries of the Union, being equally animated by the desire to protect, in as effective and uniform a manner as possible, the rights of authors in their literary and artistic works, Recognizing the importance of the work of the Revision Conference held at Stockholm in 1967, Have resolved to revise the Act adopted by the Stockholm Conference, while maintaining without change Articles 1 to 20 and 22 to 26 of that Act.

  • Cultural Property Disputes are Reshaping the Art World—but How?

    It's a sad truth that the depredations of war and imperialism have sometimes had positive side effects for art history. Take the Metropolitan Museum's recent "Manet-Velázquez" show, on the influence of 17th-century Spanish painting on 19th-century French art.

  • Federal Cultural Property Legislation
  • International Cultural Property Protection - US Department of State

    The United States Department of State is responsible for implementing the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act (the Act). This is the enabling legislation for the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. In accordance with the Act, United States Department of State accepts requests from countries for import restrictions on archaeological or ethnological artifacts, the pillage of which places their national cultural heritage in jeopardy.

Art and Cultural Property Law - Europe

  • Council of Europe Framework Convention on the Value of Cultural Heritage for Society

    This Framework Convention reflects a shift from the question “How and by what procedure can we preserve the heritage?” to the question “Why should we enhance its value, and for whom?”. It is based on the idea that knowledge and use of heritage form part of the citizen’s right to participate in cultural life as defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

  • Russian Law on Cultural Property

    On April 15, 1998, the Russian parliament enacted legislation concerning the treatment to be accorded cultural property seized by Soviet troops and removed to the U.S.S.R. during and at the end of World War II. This law represents the culmination of numerous attempts by the Russian Duma and Federation Council to nationalize the "trophy art" and cultural property now in Russia. This action has been taken to establish the Russian Federation's right to "compensatory restitution" for the damages it incurred as a result of World War II.

  • Working Group on Cultural Property

    The Working Group on Cultural Property aims to provide a forum for the exploration of issues central to cultural heritage, cultural property and the law; to exchange and develop ideas and to organize activities and presentations that are to the mutual learning of all participants. We invite guest speakers to give lectures on specific topics and also to discuss our own research.

Art and Cultural Property Law - International

Organizations Related to Art and Cultural Property Law

  • Art Law & Cultural Property - International Foundation for Art Research (IFAR)

    These two sets of resources—International Cultural Property Ownership and Export Legislation (ICPOEL) and Case Law and Statutes (CLS)—will help users navigate the increasingly complex and abundant body of legislation and case law regarding the acquisition and ownership of artworks.

  • Art Loss Register

    The origin of the ALR was The International Foundation for Art Research (IFAR), a not-for-profit organisation based in New York. In an attempt to deter international art theft, IFAR established an art theft archive in 1976 and began publishing the “Stolen Art Alert”. The origin of the ALR was The International Foundation for Art Research (IFAR), a not-for-profit organisation based in New York. In an attempt to deter international art theft, IFAR established an art theft archive in 1976 and began publishing the “Stolen Art Alert”.

  • Art-Law Centre

    Because the goal of the Art-Law Centre is to promote and coordinate research and work on the most current questions of art law, it has chosen an interdisciplinary approach by including people from both the art world and the legal world. The Centre can thus better diffuse its competence and information directly to the public, as well as to specifically interested entities (such as artists, collectors, auction houses, dealers, museums, etc.)

  • Arts Law Centre of Australia

    The Arts Law Centre of Australia is the national community legal centre for the arts. Arts Law is a not for profit company limited by guarantee which was established with the support of the Australia Council in 1983 to provide specialised legal and business advice and referral services, professional development resources and advocacy for artists and arts organisations.

  • International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property

    ICCROM is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the conservation of cultural heritage. Its members are individual states which have declared their adhesion to it. It exists to serve the international community as represented by its Member States, which currently number more than 125. It is the only institution of its kind with a worldwide mandate to promote the conservation of all types of cultural heritage, both movable and immovable.

  • International Confederation of Art Dealers (CINOA)

    CINOA is a non-profit international federation of associations which was established more than 70 years ago. It is the only international federation for antique and art dealers that represents a wide array of specialities. CINOA’s members are 30 art and antique associations from 21 countries.

  • International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS)

    ICOMOS is an international non-governmental organization of professionals, dedicated to the conservation of the world's historic monuments and sites." The web site provides, among other things, the Draft UNESCO Declaration Concerning the Intentional Destruction of Cultural Heritage and the World Heritage List.

  • International Cultural Property Society

    The International Cultural Property Society was established by Professor John Henry Merryman in 1990 to sponsor reasoned discussion of all aspects of cultural property and heritage. The role of the Society is to provide a neutral forum for the discussion of all aspects of and interests in cultural property.

  • International Foundation for Art Research (IFAR)

    The International Foundation for Art Research (IFAR) is a not-for-profit educational and research organization dedicated to integrity in the visual arts. IFAR offers impartial and authoritative information on authenticity, ownership, theft, and other artistic, legal, and ethical issues concerning art objects.

  • Lawyers’ Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation is the web-based home of The Lawyers’ Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation. LCCHP is a nonprofit organization of lawyers, law students and interested members of the public who have joined together to promote the preservation and protection of cultural heritage resources in the United States and internationally through education and advocacy.

  • UNESCO - United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

    One of UNESCO's mandates is to pay special attention to new global threats that may affect the natural and cultural heritage and ensure that the conservation of sites and monuments contributes to social cohesion.

Publications Related to Art and Cultural Property Law

  • Art Antiquity & Law - UK

    Art Antiquity and Law is a Quarterly designed for all who value the cultural and historical environment. The principal aim of the Quarterly is to inform. It exists to tell those who work in art and antiquity about the law governing their activities and the policies behind the law. It is founded on the belief, never more confident than today, that cultural life cannot in a legal vacuum.

  • Culture Without Context

    Newsletter of the Illicit Antiquities Research Centre. Published twice a year since 1997. Opinions, articles and news.

  • International Journal of Cultural Property

    International Journal of Cultural Property provides a vital, international, and multidisciplinary forum for the broad spectrum of views surrounding cultural property, cultural heritage, and related issues. Its mission is to develop new ways of dealing with cultural property debates, to be a venue for the proposal or enumeration of pragmatic policy suggestions, and to be accessible to a wide audience of professionals, academics, and lay readers.

Organisations Related to Lost or Stolen Art or Cultural Property Law

  • Art Theft - World´s Most Wanted Art

    The arts need a protector that can help recover cultural treasure world-wide. Join in our search, exploring the world of fine art and international intrigue. Towards that proposition we provide the web's most comprehensive (multi lingual) guide to stolen art; chronicling the world's major art thefts and recovery efforts. Our intent is to bring these stories to television and new media.

  • Art Theft Program - FBI

    Art and cultural property crime - which includes theft, fraud, looting, and trafficking across state and international lines -- is a looming criminal enterprise with estimated losses running as high as $6 billion annually. To recover these precious pieces--and to bring these criminals to justice--the FBI uses a dedicated Art Crime Team of 13 Special Agents to investigate, supported by three Special Trial Attorneys for prosecutions.

  • Central Registry of Information on Looted Cultural Property 1933-1945

    This site contains two fully searchable databases. The Information Database contains information and documentation from forty nine countries, including laws and policies, reports and publications, archival records and resources, current cases and relevant websites. The Object Database contains details of over 25,000 objects of all kinds – paintings, drawings, antiquities, Judaica, etc – looted, missing and/or identified from over fifteen countries.

  • Find Stolen Art - UK

    This Web Site has been developed to assist Police Forces, across the United Kingdom, in the recovery and return of Stolen Antiques and to enable Auction Houses, Collectors and dealers to comply with the code of Due Diligence.

  • Reporting Lost or Stolen Art or Cultural Property - USNCB

    The Interpol-U.S. National Central Bureau (USNCB), a component of the U.S. Department of Justice, serves as the United States’ representative to INTERPOL, the International Criminal Police Organization. The USNCB is the central point of contact for all INTERPOL matters in the United States.

  • Saving Antiquities for Everyone

    Online resource that highlights issues related to the vulnerability of our shared cultural heritage to looting and the illicit antiquities trade.

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