Rome Convention: 20 Years after the UNIDROIT Convention

flyer-eI’m very much looking forward to participating in this Friday’s conference at the Capitoline Museum in Rome marking the 20th Anniversary of the UNIDROIT Convention on Stolen and Illegally Exported Cultural Property. If you haven’t registered yet, and happen to be in Rome, I’m afraid registration is closed. But I’ll be offering some thoughts on the conference when I get back home next week.



Antiquities Trafficking Discussion at the SAA San Francisco, April 18


I’ll be presenting a short paper on the Ka-Nefer-Nefer forfeiture case at the Society for American Archaeology Annual meeting this Saturday morning. Our panel is scheduled from 8-10.15 A.M. in the Golden Gate 4 room of the Hilton San Francisco Union Square.

Here are the other scheduled papers:

Antiquities, drugs, guns, diamonds, wildlife: toward a theory of transnational criminal markets in illicit goods
Simon Mackenzie*

The Kapoor Case: International collaboration on antiquities provenance research
Jason Felch

Alternative Strategies in Confronting Looting and Trafficking in Defense of Peruvian Portable Heritage
Alvaro Higueras

The Ka Nefer Nefer and Federal Intervention in the Illicit Antiquities Trade
Derek Fincham

Geospatial strategies for mapping large scale archaeological site destruction: The case from Egypt
Sarah Parcak

Bones of Contention: Further Investigation into the Online Trade in Archaeological and Ethnographic Human Remains
Duncan Chappell & Damien Huffer

The ruin of the Maya heartland: successes, failures, and consequences of four decades of antiquities trafficking regulation
Donna Yates

Syria: Cultural Property Protection Policy Failure?
Neil Brodie

Morag Kersel will also be presenting a paper on her project Follow the Pots

Good Luck to the Cultural Heritage Law Teams in Chicago

Alexander Calder's 'Flamingo'
Alexander Calder’s ‘Flamingo’

Good luck to all the teams fighting over the Blue Pineapple in Chicago at the National Cultural Heritage Law Moot Court competition this weekend! This competition is put together by DePaul College of Law with the help of the Lawyers’ Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation. It’s a great showcase for these soon-to-be-lawyers and this field. A bit about this year’s problem:

The 2015 Competition will focus 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 will address both a First Amendment and a Fifth Amendment challenge to VARA.

Cultural heritage law deals with our most prized possessions and often spans beyond national borders, and, inevitably, has become the subject of often contentious legal debates and policies. This dynamic and growing legal field deals with the issues that arise as our society comes to appreciate the important symbolic, historical and emotional role that cultural heritage plays in our lives. It encompasses several disparate areas: protection of archaeological sites; preservation of historic structures and the built environment; preservation of and respect for both tangible and intangible indigenous cultural heritage; the international market in art works and antiquities; and recovery of stolen art works.

And Chicago must be the place to be for art and cultural heritage law this weekend, as the University of Chicago’s Neubauer Collegium will also be hosting a two-day conference titled: ‘Archaeological Looting: Realities and Possibilities for New Policy Approaches’.

How Law Defines Art

Is this a museum?  "Prada Marfa" by Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset
Is this a museum? “Prada Marfa” by Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset
Is this advertising? “Playboy Marfa” by Richard Phillips

Last month the John Marshall Review of Intellectual Property Law held its annual symposium. This year the topic was the intersection of art and law. There were a number of great papers examining how art and law overlap. I contributed a short talk on how the law ends up defining art, arguing the legal and the arts community need to recognize the important role law plays in defining the limits of conceptual art when legal disputes arise. I’ve posted the short draft online here: (How Law Defines Art), and I’d love to hear any reactions.

Defining art is both hard and subjective. But in lots of contexts the law must arrive at a just solution to hard and subjective questions. The art world (which includes artists, buyers, art lovers, art historians, and art writers generally) has largely neglected the task of defining artworks. This neglect has crept into legal disputes as contemporary art has become more conceptual. It has loosened the limits of aesthetics, form, function, and composition. This makes crafting a definition even more challenging. Yet the Law has an important part to play in resolving art disputes. In doing so courts end up defining art. They do not set out to do so, and in fact they do all they can to avoid acting as art critics. But paradoxically this creates inconsistent judicial reasoning and leads to under-reasoned opinions. The solution offered here, is to acknowledge this critical function, and encourage courts to engage with the visual arts community, and for the arts community to engage back.

Continue reading “How Law Defines Art”

Heritage and Museums: Ethics & Values May 13 in Warwick

I’ve been forwarded on information about a super networking project at Warwick in two weeks:

Heritage & Museums: Values, Ethics and Communities

Clive Gray and Charlotte Woodhead of the University of Warwick, UK cordially invite you to the second of our roundtable discussions – this time on the topic of Ethics and Communities. These sessions aim to bring together academics and practitioners from the museums and heritage sector to identify and discuss some of the core questions faced in practice.

This free event on +Tuesday 13th May 2014 comprises a series of brief presentations showing contrasting viewpoints on particular aspect of ethics. This will be followed by the opportunity to discuss the implication of these for the development of more specific research networks with a view to identifying key issues of concern to develop into innovative research initiatives. Full details can be found on the project website (details of which are set out below).

Speakers include: Jonathan Ferguson (Royal Armouries), Kathryn Walker-Tubb (University College London), Janet Ulph (University of Leicester), Mike Robinson (Ironbridge Institute for Cultural Heritage, University of Birmingham) and Vikki McCall (Stirling University).

The roundtable discussion will take place at the University of Warwick on +Tuesday 13th May 2014  (all day event). If you would like to attend this event (there is no charge to attend and there is even a complimentary lunch!) please complete our online form to reserve a place so that we can make appropriate catering arrangements.

2014 Study Abroad Law Program at the Tulane-Siena Institute

Siena campo and landscape

I’ve been forwarded on a notice that DePaul has partnered with Tulane Law School and the Università di Siena for the 2014 Summer Study Abroad Program. The Program runs from June 3 – 27th. It should be primarily of interest to lawyers and law students, as it offers CLEs for current attorneys and ABA accreditation for law students. I’ve had former students who have really enjoyed their time on this program, and of course Siena is terrific. From the announcement:

This program offers students the unique opportunity to study the complex relationship between international law, art and cultural heritage. It provides students with the only opportunity in the world to study in depth the relationship between international law and art itself, as both physical and intellectual property. Lectures are supplemented extensively with field trips, presentations by guest speakers, and visits to museums, private collections, and looted sites. Additionally, after finishing the academic component, interested students will then have the opportunity to put their new knowledge to use, working on the ground in either the U.S. or Southeast Asia. In response to the looting of archaeological sites, the Kingdom of Cambodia’s Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts is launching a department to study and combat the illicit antiquities trade. Thanks to a partnership with Tulane Law School, selected interns will have an unprecedented opportunity to become involved in this exciting work. They will travel to the capital of Phnom Penh, where they will work alongside Cambodian and international colleagues, assisting the government in one of its most crucial efforts. Internships are also available working with the Holocaust Art Restitution Project in either New York or Washington, DC. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis until the program is full. For more information, please visit



Summer Abroad: Cultural Heritage Law in Istanbul, May 25 – June 15

The Alexander Sarcophagus
The Alexander Sarcophagus

This summer I’ll be teaching a 1-credit “International Cultural Heritage Law” course in Istanbul. Its a terrific city for the course, home to the Alexander Sarcophagus and the Hagia Sophia, we’ll have a rich set of local examples to draw from for our class discussions. The program is run by the University of Kansas and co-sponsored by William Mitchell College of Law, and my school South Texas College of Law. Information about the other courses and the program is available here.

Here’s the description of my course:

  • International Cultural Heritage Law
    (1 credit) Professor Derek Fincham
    This course will examine the intersection between law and material cultural heritage. It will show how nations and individuals resolve disputes over art and antiquities. We will examine the international conventions governing cultural heritage and show how they have been useful for nations like Turkey, Italy and Greece in securing repatriation of art and antiquities. Particular attention will be given to the private and public laws used to resolve the growing number of international cultural heritage disputes.

Call for Presenters, 6th Annual ARCA Conference June 28-29

ARCA's Fifth Annual Conference in 2013
ARCA’s Fifth Annual Conference in 2013

One of the highlights of my year is getting to travel to Amelia every summer to teach in ARCA’s postgraduate program, and to organize its annual conference. There seem to be a wave of great art and heritage conferences all over the world now that are helping to promote the field—one that is still very much in its early stages. I want to make a push for what I think is a unique conference, ARCA’s annual conference in Amelia. With many of us experiencing the latest cold snap here in the states, it might be a good time to cast your attention to thoughts of summer and warm Umbrian sunshine. Our conference hopes to promote study of art crime and cultural heritage by focusing attention on the good writing and work being done, and offering a collegial space for folks to come together. Many of us rely on the internet to communicate and interract, so it is a real treat to meet folks you’ve been emailing and reading for years. And best of all the conference offers plenty of time for socializing and taking in the Umbrian countryside. Our panels are organized into groups of 3-4 speakers, with 20 minutes per speaker. Presenters hail from a terrific range of backgrounds including: law, criminology, art history, law enforcement, archaeology, journalism, and others.

If you are interested in submitting a proposal to present, or attending (there’s no admission fee, just a small charge for lunch and dinner) keep reading below the jump for the particulars.

Continue reading “Call for Presenters, 6th Annual ARCA Conference June 28-29”

Call for Papers: Art-Law Centre Geneva June 13-14

The Art-Law Centre in Geneva is organizing a conference June 13-14th in Geneva. The full call for papers is here. From the call:


The Art-Law Centre of the University of Geneva is convening all those engaged in research and teaching in the field of Art and Cultural Heritage Law to the First All Art and Cultural Heritage Law Conference. At the Conference, the three themes described below will be examined and discussed. For each theme, a panel of 4 experts has been selected, and other experts will be drawn from this call for papers. The panel’s chair will lead the discussion which will take place before the conference between the panelists and the authors. At the conference, the results of that exchange will be presented and further developed.

Call for Presenters: Socio-Legal Studies Association

IMG_2402In April in my old haunting  stomping grounds in Aberdeen there looks to be a promising Annual conference of the Socio-Legal Studies Association. Aberdeen can be a chilly place to visit, but April is often sunny, and the countryside (and whisky) are spectacular.

From the announcement: Continue reading “Call for Presenters: Socio-Legal Studies Association”