Wednesday, December 28, 2016

New Cultural Heritage Laws Enacted

President Barack Obama put his signature this month on three pieces of legislation that are important to cultural heritage protection. Enacted into law on December 16 were the Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery Act (HEAR), the Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity Clarification Act (FCEJICA), and the National Park Service Centennial Act (NPSCA).

The HEAR Act (Public Law No: 114-308) makes it easier for claimants to recover stolen World War II era artwork. The law softens statute of limitations hurdles by permitting a six year window to file a lawsuit after the art is found:
Notwithstanding any other provision of Federal or State law or any defense at law relating to the passage of time, and except as otherwise provided in this section, a civil claim or cause of action against a defendant to recover any artwork or other property that was lost during the covered period because of Nazi persecution may be commenced not later than 6 years after the actual discovery by the claimant or the agent of the claimant of—
(1) the identity and location of the artwork or other property; and
(2) a possessory interest of the claimant in the artwork or other property.
The HEAR Act enjoyed bipartisan support on Capitol Hill. Senators John Cornyn (R-TX), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) introduced the measure, which the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously adopted on September 15. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) introduced the bill in the House. 

Watch the video below, courtesy of C-SPAN, of a joint hearing conducted by two Senate Judiciary subcommittees that discussed the HEAR Act in June.

President Obama also signed into law this month the FCEJICA (Public Law No: 114-319), which CHL reported in an earlier blog post. This law also earned broad bipartisan support on Capitol Hill. It buttresses legal safeguards to protect foreign art on temporary loan to US museums from judicial seizures.

Finally, the NPSCA became law (Public Law No: 114-289). It amends the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) to transform the part-time chairman of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) into a full-time post, effective January 20, 2017. The ACHP is a body that advises the President and Congress on national historic preservation policy. The new law also endows the General Chairman of the National Association of Tribal Historic Preservation Officers (NATHPO) with voting rights on the ACHP.

The NPSCA passed the Senate by unanimous consent on December 10 and passed the House by voice vote on December 6 before becoming law.

Photo credit: Tim Nooteboom/

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