LAW 301

Art and Cultural Property Law

Entertainment Law, Indian Law, Intellectual Property, Public Interest Law

This course studies the emergence of “art” and “cultural property” law as a field of legal inquiry and practice. Broadly defined, the field encompasses the body of law applied to fine art and artists and often extends to cultural property, collectibles, and more.  In the United States, for example, art and cultural property law draws from various sources and frameworks, including laws that have grown up around art, museums, free speech, and intellectual property. In addition, federal statutory regimes identify and regulate resources of national historic and archaeological importance, including lands, buildings, and artifacts. Federal law also implements international legal instruments regulating the trade of certain art and cultural properties.  This inquiry extends to the relationships, rights, transactions and disputes among collectors, artists, dealers, auction houses, museums and other art world participants (including local and foreign governments, sovereign nations and indigenous peoples, the entertainment industry, sports franchises and social media).   

In regard to cultural property law, the class will examine the development of cultural property law as a general matter with particular attention to indigenous peoples, whose claims have pushed the law to afford protections for group rights (including groups that create property inter-generationally or for noneconomic purposes) as well as for intangible properties (from creation stories to ethnobotany to genetic information). The course will examine important federal statutes (e.g., the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990) and international instruments (e.g., the United Nation Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007)), which recognize indigenous peoples’ self‐determination over cultural resources.

This course will provide students with a general introduction to the law and doctrine of art and cultural property, including discussion of current and high-profile art disputes and legislative proposals. In doing so, the course will also engage with critiques of such protections, which highlight competing scientific, speech, and market interests in the same resources. The course will go further to not only examine the laws in their own right, but also provides an opportunity to interrogate the doctrinal, theoretical, and political underpinnings of the field, including questions about the relationship among culture, property, and law.

In light of current events, the class will also take a fresh look at issues involving “monuments,” with an eye toward history and culture, speech and anti- discrimination, human rights and relationships. In addition, because the class has so much to do with culture & community, we will take every opportunity to experience the legal issues in context through video, audio, site visits & community conversations.         

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