Art law is multidisciplinary and encompasses numerous areas of law. A useful definition is found in Robert C. Lind, Robert M. Jarvis & Marilyn E. Phelan, Art and Museum Law (2002):
Art law, simply put, is the body of law, involving numerous disciplines, that protects, regulates and facilitates the creation, use and marketing of art. Art law is not a separate jurisprudence or unified legal doctrine that applies to all of the issues confronting those in the art world. Those involved in the practice of art law look to a variety of disciplines, such as intellectual property, contract, constitutional, tort, tax, commercial and international law to protect the interests of their clients. Some of these legal principles are national in scope, while others vary according to the development of state law. Increasingly, the creation, sale, collection and display of art receive specialized legal treatment by statute, ordinance, regulation, treaty or case law.
Although "art" in the broad sense of the term includes "the arts" (music, film, theater, literature, et cetera), art law as traditionally defined concerns only works of fine art and/or the visual arts. Additionally, art law is closely related to, and often overlaps with, the area known as cultural property law.
For more information on the development of art law as an area of study and practice, see Stephen E. Weil, Introduction: Some Thoughts on "Art Law," 85 Dick. L. Rev. 555 (1981).
This guide provides an introduction to notable resources for conducting art law research available at Georgetown University and online. Given the breadth and interdisciplinary nature of the field, this guide is selective and focuses on general sources on art law rather than sources on specific subjects, such as copyright or the First Amendment. For more information on those sources, see our treatise finders and many other research guides on those specific subjects. This guide focuses primarily on U.S. law and sources, but it also necessarily includes some foreign and international law since art law is international in scope.
Members of the Georgetown University community may seek additional assistance at the reference desk or online.
Created June 2010 (MMS)
Updated Dec 2015 (MMS)
Updated March 2017 (AG)
Updated March 2018 (AG)