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Patty Gerstenblith

Process by which a museum removes an object from its collection. Many of the major European museums such as those in the UK and France are prohibited by national legislation from removing works of art from their collections. However, in rare circumstances, specific statutes permit such removal, for example in the UK with respect to art works stolen during the Holocaust. In contrast to their European counterparts, museums in the United States are legally free to remove works of art from their collections for purposes of sale or other reasons. While state statutes may in rare circumstances restrict alienability, the only general exception is if a donor has imposed a legally enforceable restraint on alienation—that is, the transfer of ownership. However, the codes of ethics and voluntary guidelines of the two major museum associations, the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) and the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD), restrict what a museum can do with the proceeds from the sale of a deaccessioned artwork. The AAMD restricts the use of proceeds to the acquisition of substitute works of art, while the AAM policy allows proceeds to be used for acquisitions and direct care of collections. The penalties for violating these guidelines range from censure to loss of accreditation. Yet, in light of the coronavirus epidemic, these associations have changed their guidelines, thereby casting doubt on the policy basis for these restrictions....


Roberta Rosenthal Kwall

Legal doctrine concerning authors’ rights that protects a creator’s personal, as opposed to economic, interests. These protections include the creator’s right to appropriate attribution and the right to have the integrity of one’s work properly maintained (see also Art legislation).

The law governing authors’ rights in the USA reflects an incomplete understanding of the motivations for human artistry. Copyright law, the body of law governing authors’ rights, rewards economic incentives almost exclusively. From the beginning, American copyright law has been designed to calibrate the ideal level of economic incentive to promote creativity. With the exception of a narrow form of protection for certain types of visual art, copyright law in America does not provide authors with legal protection such as the right to have their works attributed to them, or the right to have their works maintained and presented in a manner consistent with their artistic vision. These rights are known, respectively, as the right of attribution and the right of integrity and they are part of the larger doctrine of moral rights law....


Noémie Goldman and Kim Oosterlinck

Term for the return of lost or looted cultural objects to their country of origin, former owners, or their heirs. The loss of the object may happen in a variety of contexts (armed conflicts, war, colonialism, imperialism, or genocide), and the nature of the looted cultural objects may also vary, ranging from artworks, such as paintings and sculptures, to human remains, books, manuscripts, and religious artefacts. An essential part of the process of restitution is the seemingly unavoidable conflict around the transfer of the objects in question from the current to the former owners. Ownership disputes of this nature raise legal, ethical, and diplomatic issues. The heightened tensions in the process arise because the looting of cultural objects challenges, if not breaks down, relationships between peoples, territories, cultures, and heritages.

The history of plundering and art imperialism may be traced back to ancient times. Looting has been documented in many instances from the sack by the Romans of the Etruscan city of Veii in ...