Sunday, February 22, 2015

Italy Asks for MoU Renewal to Protect Cultural Heritage

The Italian government has asked the United States to renew a bilateral agreement or Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) restricting American import of archaeological artifacts in jeopardy of pillage.

The protective MoU between the two nations has been renewed twice before. The current agreement, in place since 2011, covers pre-Classical, Classical, and Imperial Roman artifacts from Italy.

The Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) will meet in public session on April 8 in Washington, DC to discuss the latest request.

To submit written comments concerning the proposed MoU, click hereComments are due to CPAC by March 20 and must relate to one, some, or all of the "four determinations" laid out by the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act (CPIA). These include:

(A) whether the cultural patrimony of Italy is in jeopardy from the pillage of archaeological or ethnological materials of the State Party; 

(B) whether the Italian government has taken measures to protect its cultural patrimony; 

(C) whether the application of the import restrictions, if applied in combination with similar restrictions by other nations individually having a significant import trade in such material, would be of substantial benefit in deterring a serious situation of pillage, and whether remedies less drastic are not available; and 

(D) whether the application of the import restrictions is consistent with the general interest of the international community in the interchange of cultural property among nations for scientific, cultural, and educational purposes.

Photo credit: Aculine

Text copyrighted 2015 by Cultural Heritage Lawyer. Blog url: Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of this post without the express written consent of CHL is prohibited. CHL is a project of Red Arch Cultural Heritage Law & PolicyResearch, Inc.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Canadian Man Charged with Trafficking Dinosaur Fossils from China

U.S. District Court in Tucson, AZ.
A man has been arrested in Arizona for allegedly trying to sell dinosaur fossils imported from China to undercover federal agents. Jun Yang, a Canadian, faces criminal charges of archaeological smuggling and wildlife trafficking.

The charges, initiated by U.S. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), likely will be challenged by defense lawyers because of legal irregularities.

Filed on Tuesday in federal district court (15-mj-07055), the complaint alleges that the defendant
did fraudulently and knowingly offer for sale and sell merchandise, namely one Psittacosaurus fossil and  approximately 15 Hadrosaur fossil eggs, after the merchandises' importation into the United States, knowing said merchandise had been imported into  the United States contrary to law; that is, ... Jun Yang knowingly sold said merchandise knowing that they are cultural property that had been imported into the United States from the People's Republic of China contrary to law, that is specially protected fossils are prohibited  from being sold to any foreigner or foreign organization, all in violation of Title  19, United  States Code  Section  2606(a) [the Cultural Property Implementation Act (CPIA)] and Title  18 United States Code Section 545 [the anti-smuggling law].
[and] did unlawfully and knowingly import in foreign commerce, transport, receive and acquire any wildlife, that is one Psittacosaurus fossil and approximately 15 Hadrosaur fossil eggs, knowing that said wildlife were taken, possessed, transported and sold in violation of the laws of the People's Republic of China. all in violation  of Title  16 United States Code. Sections 3372(a)(2)(A) and 3373(d)(l)(B) [the Lacey Act].
The CPIA, which is relied on by Count 1 in the charging document, is the federal statute that implements the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. While the 1970 UNESCO Convention’s definition of "cultural property" includes "objects of palaeontological interest," the CPIA itself only applies to archaeological and ethnological objects. Palaeontolological material--like dinosaur fossils--are not archaeological or ethnological objects by definition. And while the U.S. has signed a bilateral agreement with China that restricts the import of designated Chinese archaeological and ethnological artifacts across America's borders, that agreement does not prohibit dinosaur fossils.

Count 2 relies on the Lacey Act, a federal law designed to protect wildlife and other natural resources. Under the terms of the statute, it is illegal to import or sell designated wildlife that is taken, possessed, or sold in violation of any law, treaty or regulation of the United States. But are dinosaur fossils wildlife? While the statutory definition of "wildlife" includes a dead wild animal or an egg, would either a dinosaur fossil or dinosaur eggs actually be considered "wildlife"?

The defendant's arrest is explained by the allegations contained in the criminal complaint:
On or about February l0, 2015, in Tucson in the District of Arizona, agents of the Department of Homeland Security acting in an undercover capacity walked through the display area at [a gem and mineral show] .... Agents spoke with Mr. Yang about an item displayed and advertised as a Psittacosaurus Fossil. Mr. Yang stated the fossil was 100 to 130 million years old and from the province Henan and was "dug up" in  central  China  approximately 200-300 kilometers south of Mongolia. Mr. Yang stated the price of the Psittacosaurus Fossil was $15,000.00 (United States Currency) and was not negotiable because of the quality of the fossil. Agents heard Mr. Yang  speak with  another  customer regarding egg fossils adjacent to the Psittacosaurus fossil. Mr. Yang identified the eggs as Chinese dinosaur egg fossils  and told  the agents they were Hadrosaur  Eggs, a "duck billed" dinosaur in  China. A sign on the dinosaur egg fossils display box stated "$450.00" for each egg. 
On or about February 10, 2015, agents posing as shoppers ... again spoke with Mr. Yang about the Psittacosaurus fossil .... Mr. Yang stated that he illegally removed the fossils from China, put the fossils in containers with stone carvings, shipped them to the United States and didn't disclose that fossils were in the containers to US Customs and Border Protection, only paying tax on the stone carvings. 
When asked, Mr. Yang said that the exportation of the Psittacosaurus fossil and the Hadrosaur Eggs were in violation of Chinese law. Mr. Yang stated this was only a violation of the laws of China, not US. Mr. Yang stated he has no documents for any of the fossils. Agents asked for permission to photograph the fossils, and Mr. Yang agreed. 
The pictures were later sent to a Subject Matter Expert (SME) who, based on the photographs taken by the agents confirmed the fossils are a Psittacosaurus fossil and Hadrosaur Eggs and were indigenous to certain regions of China. The SME stated that these fossils are of high scientific value. A review of the law of the Peoples Republic of China prohibits the sale of specially protected fossils to foreigners or foreign organizations. 
On or about February 14, 2015 an agent acting in an undercover (UC) capacity entered the Arctic Products Inc. display area posing as a shopper. The UC agent started the conversation with Mr. Yang about the Hadrosaur Eggs that were on display and inquired as to how many they would be able to purchase for five-thousand dollars (USD-$5000.00). Mr. Yang stated that the Hadrosaur Eggs are from China, that they were very rare and that he used to have a lot, but may not be able to get them anymore. Mr. Yang stated that he already sold one (1) Hadrosaur Egg for four hundred fifty (USD-$450.00) but stated he would sell thirteen (13) Hadrosaur Eggs at a discounted rate for five-thousand dollars (USD-$5000.00) to the UC agent. 
The UC agent then inquired about the Psittacosaurus fossil.... Mr. Yang explained to the UC agent that the Psittacosaurus fossil was approximately 130-100 millions years old and it was for sale for fifteen thousand dollars (USD-$15,000). Mr. Yang stated that all the stuff was from China. Mr. Yang stated that he has had the Psittacosaurus fossil for a few years and that it was from the North-Eastern part of China. When asked how he got the fossils out of China, Mr. Yang stated the fossils are put in containers with the stone carvings and "we do not declare, we declare it as stone."
An arrest is not a finding of guilt; it is simply a process that initiates a criminal court proceeding. The prosecution bears the burden to prove that a defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Photo source: U.S. DoJ

Text copyrighted 2015 by Cultural Heritage Lawyer. Blog url: Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of this post without the express written consent of CHL is prohibited. CHL is a project of Red Arch Cultural Heritage Law & Policy Research, Inc.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Cultural Heritage Events in Dallas and Philadelphia You Won't Want to Miss

Roger Atwood
Red Arch board of directors Roger Atwood and Victoria Reed will be featured at two upcoming events you will want to attend.

Atwood will share his vast knowledge of cultural heritage looting on February 20 at the Dallas Museum of Art in Texas. Atwood is the author of Stealing History, a riveting account of the antiquities trafficking underworld. He is a contributing editor at Archaeology magazine and a London correspondent for ARTnews.

Victoria Reed
On March 27 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Dr. Reed will share her experiences as a provenance investigator as a panelist at the Lawyer's Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation (LCCHP) annual conference. She is Sadler curator for Provenance at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. 

This year's LCCHP's conference, co-sponsored by the Penn Cultural Heritage Center, is titled Cultural Property: Current Problems Meet Established Law and presents an all-star cast.

Patty Gerstenblith
Luminaries in the cultural heritage protection field like Professor Patty Gerstenblith of the DePaul Center for Art, Museum & Cultural Heritage Law, Corrine Wegener of the U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield, and many others are expected to offer crisp insights.

Register here today! The conference offers 4.5 CLE credits for lawyers, including 1.0 for ethics.

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Thursday, February 12, 2015

Combating Terror Funding: Cultural Heritage Trafficking in Syria and Iraq Targeted by Unanimously Adopted UN Security Council Resolution

The United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2199 today. It is designed to strangle terrorists' ability to raise money through cultural heritage trafficking and other criminal sources like oil smuggling and kidnap and ransom.

Adopted under Chapter VII of the UN Charterwhich covers threats to peace, the resolution particularly targets fundraising efforts by the Islamic State (IS/ISIS/ISIL) and Al Nusra Front (ANF).

Ambassador Samantha Power, U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN, told Security Council members, "by imposing a new ban on the trade in smuggled Syrian antiquities, this resolution both cuts off a source of ISIL revenue and helps protect an irreplaceable cultural heritage, of the region and of the world." She highlighted how "the United States has sponsored the publication of so-called “Emergency Red Lists” of Syrian and Iraqi antiquities at risk, which can help international law enforcement catch antiquities trafficked out of these countries."

United Kingdom ambassador Mark Lyall Grant  expressed concern about the "disturbing body of evidence that Al Qaeda groups such as ISIL are generating significant incomes from the sale of oil, kidnapping for ransom and the looting and smuggling of cultural heritage items from Iraq and Syria." Speaking in support of the measure, Ambassador shared his view that the "resolution contains measures to constrain ISIL’s ability to fund their campaign of terror."

In the three paragraphs that cover cultural heritage trafficking, the Security Council declares that it
Condemns the destruction of cultural heritage in Iraq and Syria particularly by ISIL and ANF, whether such destruction is incidental or deliberate, including targeted destruction of religious sites and objects; 
Notes with concern that ISIL, ANF and other individuals, groups, undertakings and entities associated with A1-Qaida, are generating income from engaging directly or indirectly in the looting and smuggling of cultural heritage items from archaeological sites, museums, libraries, archives, and other sites in Iraq and Syria, which is being used to support their recruitment efforts and strengthen their operational capability to organize and carry out terrorist attacks;
Reaffirms its decision in paragraph 7 of resolution 1483 (2003) [that prohibits the trade in Iraqi cultural heritage objects reasonably suspected to have been illegally removed] and decides that all Member States shall take appropriate steps to prevent the trade in Iraqi and Syrian cultural property and other items of archaeological, historical, cultural, rare scientific, and religious importance illegally removed from Iraq since 6 August 1990 and from Syria since 15 March 2011, including by prohibiting crossborder trade in such items, thereby allowing for their eventual safe return to the Iraqi and Syrian people and calls upon the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, Interpol, and other international organizations, as appropriate, to assist in the implementation of this paragraph[.]
The Permanent members of the Security Council include the United States, United Kingdom, Russian Federation, France, and China. Non-permanent members include Venezuela, Spain, Nigeria, New Zealand, Malaysia, Lithuania, Jordan, Chile, Chad, and Angola.

Russia authored Resolution 2199, and member states have four months to report the steps they have taken to comply with the resolution's aspirations.

Photo credit: Marmit

Text copyrighted 2015 by Cultural Heritage Lawyer. Blog url: Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of this post without the express written consent of CHL is prohibited. CHL is a project of Red Arch Cultural Heritage Law & Policy Research, Inc.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Federal Judge Denies ACCG's Motion to Reconsider

Judge Catherine Blake has once again said no to the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild in the case of U.S. v. Three Knife-Shaped Coins Et al.

In a short ruling issued Tuesday, the federal court judge for the district of Maryland wrote:
I have considered the motion for reconsideration ... filed by the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild (“the Guild”), together with the government’s opposition and the Guild’s reply. As I continue to believe that my opinion issued June 3, 2014 correctly interprets the Fourth Circuit’s ruling in Ancient Coin Collectors Guild v. U.S. Customs and Border Protection, 698 F.3d 171 (4th Cir. 2012), the motion for reconsideration is Denied.
Earlier court actions pursued by the Guild have resulted in losses in the federal district courtthe court of appeals, and the U.S. Supreme Court.

Text copyrighted 2015 by Cultural Heritage Lawyer. Blog url: Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of this post without the express written consent of CHL is prohibited. CHL is a project of Red Arch Cultural Heritage Law & Policy Research, Inc.

Hat tip: Gary Nurkin
Photo credit: Jason Morrison

Monday, January 26, 2015

Be a Judge: The 2015 National Cultural Heritage Law Moot Court Competition Needs You!

DePaul University College of Law and the Lawyers’ Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation are seeking attorneys to serve as judges during the Sixth Annual National Cultural Heritage Law Moot Court Competition. This year’s Competition is the largest and most competitive yet, with twenty-six teams representing nineteen law schools from across the country participating in the 2015 Competition! Oral arguments will be held on February 27-28, 2015 at the Everett McKinley Dirksen United States Courthouse, home of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, in Chicago, IL.

The 2015 Competition centers on constitutional challenges to the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990 (VARA), 17 U.S.C. § 106A, which protects visual artists’ moral rights of attribution and integrity. The problem, which can be viewed here, addresses both a First Amendment and a Fifth Amendment challenge to VARA.

Attorneys who serve as judges during the competition may receive CLE credit if they qualify. Each judge also receives a complimentary ticket to the Awards Reception, to be held on Saturday, February 28th in the Grand Ballroom of the Standard Club.  If you are interested in serving as a judge, please download and complete the 2015 Judge Registration Form on the competition website and email it to Additional information regarding the 2015 Competition can be found at

Text copyrighted 2015 by Cultural Heritage Lawyer. Blog url: Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of this post without the express written consent of CHL is prohibited. CHL is a project of Red Arch Cultural Heritage Law & Policy Research, Inc.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Opposition to MoU's: A Change in Policy for the Association of Art Museum Directors?

Museums are vital to the protection of cultural heritage. They preserve art and artifacts for the benefit of present and future generations, and they inspire visitors, students, and scholars to appreciate and safeguard history.

Most museums are tax exempt charitable corporations, holding the public's trust as stewards of human civilization. They are expected to lawfully and ethically acquire artifacts. They also are counted on to promote policies that preserve cultural objects.

So it is with interest that the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) last Tuesday opposed the renewal of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) meant to retain American import barriers on endangered heritage objects from Nicaragua. The group's objection follows a sequence of opposition to MoU's begun in 2014. Does this mark a new policy direction for the organization?

The AAMD is made up of important stakeholders, representing the directors of some of the largest and most distinguished cultural institutions in North America. The group often recites that “it deplores the illicit and unscientific excavation of archaeological materials and ancient art from archaeological sites and the destruction or defacing of ancient monuments” and that it “is committed to the responsible acquisition of archaeological materials and ancient art.” From this point of departure, the AAMD traditionally has supported—albeit softly—cultural property protection agreements authorized by the Cultural Property Implementation Act (CPIA). Lately, however, even this mild support has given way to clear opposition to bilateral agreements, which serve to protect archaeological and ethnological objects in danger of destruction.

By way of background, the Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) reviews petitions submitted by foreign nations that request American help to safeguard endangered cultural material. The help given takes the form of U.S. import restrictions on archaeological and ethnological objects in jeopardy of looting. The process used to enact these import barriers is defined by the CPIA, the federal statute that gives effect to the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property.

The CPIA requires CPAC members to assess whether a requesting government has satisfied four determinations. The full committee then offers a recommendation to the President about whether he should enact import barriers to protect cultural heritage in jeopardy. If import controls are approved by the White House, a Memorandum of Understanding is signed between the U.S. and the petitioning government. The MoU is often referred to as a bilateral agreement.

When Bulgaria requested American restrictions on cultural goods in 2011, the AAMD told CPAC in a written statement that the "AAMD supports the request for a Memorandum of Understanding from the Republic of Bulgaria with … concerns …..” The organization’s concerns seemed to have swallowed its articulated support, but the AAMD, nevertheless, expressly backed the adoption of the MoU. When CPAC considered a renewed bilateral agreement with Guatemala in 2012, the AAMD once again articulated its “concerns,” but it still offered support for the agreement. The AAMD offered similar backing for the Mali renewal in 2012 (“Subject to the concerns set forth above, the AAMD supports the request of Mali for an extension of the 2007 MOU”). Moreover, the proposed MoU with Honduras in 2013 garnered the AAMD’s endorsement, along with the usual tempering language, “Subject to the concerns raised below….”

Cambodia’s request for a renewed bilateral agreement in 2013 notably attracted the organization's clearest affirmation for an MoU (“For the reasons set forth above, the AAMD supports the renewal of the MOU”). The AAMD, meanwhile, did not offer an express objection to the enactment of an MoU with China, even though its position might be characterized as nuanced.

Then, nine months ago, the AAMD struck an entirely different chord, capped by last week's written comment directly opposing the renewal of a bilateral agreement with Nicaragua.

The AAMD’s statement on the renewal of the MoU with Nicaragua voiced unequivocal disapproval. “The AAMD respectfully recommends that the Cultural Property Advisory Committee … decline Nicaragua’s request…." For the first time, the organization included a paragraph captioned, “All Four Required CPIA Determinations Cannot Be Made for Nicaragua,” although the AAMD actually argued that only two determinations could not be satisfied. Regardless, the group expressed clear opposition to the adoption of an MoU.

The AAMD characterized Nicaragua's request as a plea for an “extraordinary type of protection” that could only be granted if the requesting nation itself proved "significant improvement in the protection of cultural property." The AAMD disquietingly added, “Any time that a country requests and is granted import restrictions without strict compliance with the requirements of the CPIA, the entire program contemplated by the CPIA is placed in jeopardy.”

The objection to a renewed U.S.-Nicaragua agreement followed demurrals aimed at petitions filed by El Salvador and Egypt last year.

The AAMD withheld its support for El Salvador’s renewal request this past September, gingerly writing, “The AAMD encourages the Cultural Property Advisory Committee … to carefully review El Salvador’s compliance …  In addition, the AAMD questions whether renewal of the MOU would meet the test of  19 U.S.C. § 2602(a)(1)(C)(i),” one of the CPIA’s four determinations. “Looting does not appear to have been significantly curtailed even after more than 27 years of United States import restrictions,” the organization added, and it asked “whether a new and different approach to an MOU is necessary.”

With respect to Egypt, the AAMD staunchly advised CPAC in May that it “not recommend any memorandum of understanding … between the government of the United States and the government of the Arab Republic of Egypt … or emergency restrictions at this time.” The AAMD questioned the foreign state's request, pointedly quizzing “Is Egypt Meeting the CPIA Determinants?” and answering the query in the negative, simultaneously downplaying archaeologists' observations of site looting in that country. “At this time, Egypt fails to satisfy at least two of the four determinants,” the AAMD flatly contended.

Given its opposition to bilateral agreements between the U.S. and Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Egypt, will the AAMD oppose future requests for American assistance under the CPIA? If this is the group's new policy, will all 237 members back it?

A number of art museums have been traveling a different road. While countless books and news articles have chronicled how museum collections formed, in part, from plundered archaeological, ethnological, and paleontological material, more than a few major institutions have turned away from--or are starting to turn away from--this legacy of loot.

In fact, the past few years have witnessed a greater awareness among art museum administrators of heritage trafficking. In 2013, for example, the Metropolitan Museum of Art repatriated two Khmer sculptures discovered to have been stolen from Cambodia. The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA) meanwhile, developed a close cultural exchange partnership with Italy after taking fresh steps to resist the accession of contraband antiquities from that country. The MFA even hired a curator for provenance to bring real integrity to its collecting practices. The Cleveland Museum of Art, the Minneapolis Institute of Art, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art joined the MFA, and they are now among the institutions that employ full-time provenance researchers who perform due diligence investigations to find out the true collecting histories of pieces. Dallas Museum of Art director Maxwell Anderson, moreover, spearheaded the effort to deaccession and repatriate artifacts believed to have been looted and smuggled. He earned praise for injecting principles of fairness and transparency to the discussion on heritage preservation as chair of the AAMD's Task Force on Archaeological Materials and Ancient Art.

Whether the AAMD continues to oppose bilateral agreements or chooses a different direction, only the time will tell.

Photo credit: Mike Thorn

Text copyrighted 2015 by Cultural Heritage Lawyer. Blog url: Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of this post without the express written consent of CHL is prohibited. CHL is a project of Red Arch Cultural Heritage Law & Policy Research, Inc.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

U.N. Report: Destruction of Heritage Flagged as Risk Factor Related to Atrocity Crimes

The destruction of objects of cultural or religious heritage is a signature feature of  genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. That is the assessment offered by a recent United Nations report examining, what are collectively called, atrocity crimes.

Published by The Office of the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Framework of Analysis for Atrocity Crimes: A Tool for Prevention describes risk factors associated with grave criminal conduct directed toward specific groups, civilians, and legally protected populations.

Several threats to cultural and religious heritage are listed by the report "that point to the likelihood that certain actors are taking steps towards a scenario of mass violence and possibly atrocity crimes." The risk factors include:
  • The "[d]estruction or plundering of ... property related to cultural and religious identity;"
  • "Attacks against or destruction of ... cultural or religious symbols and property;
  • "Signs of patterns of violence against civilian populations, or against members of an identifiable group, their property, livelihoods and cultural or religious symbols;" and
  • "Threats or appropriation, seizure, pillaging or intentional destruction or damage of ... property that belong, represent or are part of the cultural, social or religious identity of those protected under international humanitarian law, unless used for military purposes."
The report should prompt collectors of cultural property, who fail to use rigorous due diligence when purchasing objects, to carefully evaluate how their acquisitions of conflict antiquities or wartime looted art contribute to atrocity crimes.

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Monday, January 12, 2015

Back Again: A Bill Weakening the NHPA Has Been Proposed in the House

A bill that would weaken the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) is back on Capitol Hill.

Last week, California congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA-49) introduced H.R. 135, the latest incarnation of an earlier legislative proposal that would empower a single federal agency head to unilaterally prevent a property from placement on the National Historic Register or from designation as a National Historic Landmark.

The bill seeks to amend  the NHPA so that the head of the agency managing federal property can deny--based on unspecified national security grounds--historically significant properties from receiving federal protection.

The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources.

[UPDATE 1/12/15 5pm]: The text and title of the bill have been released. Known as the Military Land and National Defense Act, its text may be found here.

Photo credit: Ben Shafer

Text copyrighted 2015 by Cultural Heritage Lawyer. Blog url: Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of this post without the express written consent of CHL is prohibited. CHL is a project of Red Arch Cultural Heritage Law & Policy Research, Inc.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Arts and Artifacts Indemnity Program for Museum Exhibitions: New Budget Law Sets Higher Limits

The Arts and Artifacts Indemnity Program received a significant boost from lawmakers on Capitol Hill this week, and museums are sure to take note.

Tucked within the 1600 pages of the $1.1 trillion budget bill signed into law on Tuesday is a section that raises the indemnity limits for America's largest art insurance program.

Administered by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Arts and Artifacts Indemnity Program protects temporary museum exhibitions against loss or damage and saves nonprofit cultural institutions $30 million dollars a year in costs they otherwise would have spent on expensive commercial liability policies.

That estimate is given by Ford Bell, president of the American Alliance of Museums, who told senators in May that only $100,000 has ever been paid from the federal treasury over the last four decades of the art insurance program's existence.

Congress originally passed the indemnity law in 1975 to cover foreign art on loan to American museums. The statute was expanded in 2007 to cover domestic artworks as well. The law's text is codified at 20 U.S.C. Chapter 26A and 45 C.F.R. Part 1160.

The newly enacted Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015 increases the aggregate of loss or damage to art or artifacts from $10 billion to $15 billion for international exhibitions and from $5 billion to $7.5 billion for domestic exhibitions. Coverage for a single international exhibition, meanwhile, goes from $1.2 billion to $1.8 billion. The indemnity limit for a single domestic exhibition rises from $750 million to $1 billion.

The new indemnity limits reflect the higher prices that have been paid in recent years for objects sold on the fine arts and antiquities marketplaces.

Photo credit: Anna Hunter

Text copyrighted 2014 by Cultural Heritage Lawyer. Blog url: Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of this post without the express written consent of CHL is prohibited. CHL is a service of Red Arch Cultural Heritage Law & Policy Research, Inc.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Cultural Heritage Trafficking Requires Deterrence

Police officers are good at tracking down and arresting criminals. Prosecutors are good at securing convictions, even in some of the most complex cases. So why aren't police and prosecutors routinely investigating and prosecuting cultural heritage traffickers?

HSI officials returned smuggled cultural artifacts to the Turkish government
during a ceremony held last week in New York City. Source: ICE
Last week Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) repatriated ancient arrowheads, coins, and jewelry to Turkey, which were smuggled into Newark International Airport in February 2013. The objects represented some of the "more than 7,150 artifacts [that] have been returned to 27 countries" since 2007, which HSI touted in a press release.

No arrests were announced. In fact, the number of criminals taken into custody over the years for heritage trafficking has been infinitesimally small. That may be why HSI does not regularly report the number of arrests or convictions resulting from its cultural property, art, and antiquities investigations.

The impact of HSI's "seize and send" policy is that criminal infrastructures are left intact--i.e. bank accounts, smuggling routes, transshipment points, warehouses, and the like--while looters, smugglers, fences, couriers, and other offenders are returned to their criminal enterprises without consequence.

Cultural heritage trafficking needs to be deterred. It is the job of police and prosecutors to apply the law to combat this criminal activity, holding accountable those who illegally import contraband heritage and methodically dismantling the frameworks that facilitate trafficking operations.

Text copyrighted 2014 by Cultural Heritage Lawyer. Blog url: Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of this post without the express written consent of CHL is prohibited.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Nicaragua and Mali on CPAC's Agenda

The Federal Register has posted the following announcement:
There will be a meeting of the Cultural Property Advisory Committee January 21-23, 2015 at the U.S. Department of State, Annex 5, 2200 C Street NW., Washington, DC. Portions of this meeting will be closed to the public, as discussed below. 
During the closed portion of the meeting, the Committee will review the proposal to extend the Agreement Between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the Republic of Nicaragua Concerning the Imposition of Import Restrictions on Archaeological Material from the Pre-Hispanic Cultures of the Republic of Nicaragua (“Nicaragua Agreement”) [Docket No. DOS-2014-0027]. An open session to receive oral public comment on the proposal to extend the Nicaragua Agreement will be held on Wednesday, January 21, 2015, beginning at 11:00 a.m. EST. 
Also, during the closed portion of the meeting, the Committee will conduct an interim review of the Agreement Between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the Republic of Mali Concerning the Imposition of Import Restrictions on Archaeological Material from Mali from the Paleolithic Era (Stone Age) to Approximately the Mid-Eighteenth Century (“Mali Agreement”). Public comment, oral and written, will be invited at a time in the future should the Mali Agreement be proposed for extension.
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