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Art Law Research Guide

This guide provides an introduction to notable resources for conducting art law research available at Georgetown University and online.


This section of the guide provides a select list of mostly U.S. primary legal sources related to art law, but does not comprehensively cover how to do primary law research. 

Generally speaking, if you aren't confident as to what primary law is pertinent to your topic or area of research, we strongly recommend beginning with secondary sources such as a treatise rather than diving straight into primary sources like statutes, regulations, or case law.

If you need to do comprehensive and/or in-depth primary law research, do not rely solely on this page; consult resources such as our research guides to case law, statutes, regulations, treaties, or foreign and comparative law or watch one of our video tutorials on how to approach your primary law research.

Case, Claim, & Dispute Databases

Federal Statutes & Regulations

For sources for federal statutes and the U.S. Code, see the U.S. Primary Sources guide. The following is a select list of U.S. federal statutes related to art law:

  • 16 U.S.C. secs. 461 to 470aaa-11 (includes the Archaeological Resources Protection Act)
    These sections of Title 16 ("Conservation") concern the preservation and protection of important historic sites, buildings, objects, and antiquities.
  • Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act, Pub. L. No. 97-446, secs. 301-15, 96 Stat. 2329, 2350-63 (1983) (codified at 19 U.S.C. secs. 2601-2613)
    This act implements the Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export, and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property and authorizes the President to enter into bilateral agreements with party nations to prevent the import of certain "archaeological or ethnological material."
  • National Stolen Property Act, 18 U.S.C. secs. 2314-15
    This act prohibits, among other things, the knowing transportation or sale of stolen or fraudulently obtained merchandise (e.g., a work of art) worth $5,000 or more.
  • Abandoned Shipwreck Act of 1987, Pub. L. No. 100-298, 102 Stat. 432 (1988) (codified at 43 U.S.C. secs. 2101-2106)
    This act applies to abandoned shipwrecks in submerged state lands. It abrogates the law of finds and salvage; the United States takes title to these shipwrecks and then ownership is transferred to the state where the shipwreck is located.
  • 18 U.S.C. sec. 668
    Prohibits the theft of major works of art and cultural objects from museums in the United States.
  • 19 U.S.C. secs. 2091-2095
    Prohibits the importation of certain stone carvings and wall art that is the "product of a pre-Columbian Indian culture of Mexico, Central America, South America, or the Caribbean Islands."
  • Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, Pub. L. No. 101-601, 104 Stat. 3048 (1990) (codified at 25 U.S.C. secs. 3001-13, 18 U.S.C. sec. 1170)
    This act protects Native American burial sites by prohibiting unauthorized excavation and trafficking in certain items, such as human remains and funerary objects. It also establishes a system for the repatriation of items removed prior to the effective date of the act.
  • 22 U.S.C. sec. 2459
    Protects certain works of art and "other objects of cultural significance" imported into the United States for temporary exhibition at a museum or similar institution from seizure under judicial process.
  • Copyright Act of 1976, Pub. L. No. 94-553, 90 Stat. 2541 (codified as amended in Title 17 of the U.S.C.)
    Works of art are protected by U.S. copyright law. Provisions of this act apply to the creation, ownership, reproduction, and dissemination of works of art.

For sources for federal regulations, see the U.S. Primary Sources guide. If you are doing administrative/regulatory research in art law, please refer to our Administrative Law Research guide. The following is a select list of U.S. federal regulations related to art law. 

  • 18 C.F.R. secs. 1312.1-1312.21​
    Regulations related to archaeological resources protection.
  • 19 C.F.R. secs. 12.104-12.109
    Regulations governing the import of certain cultural property and pre-Columbian sculptures and murals.
  • 25 C.F.R. secs. 262.1-262.8
    Regulations on Native American archaeological resources.
  • 36 C.F.R. secs. 73.1-73.17
    World Heritage Convention regulations.
  • 37 C.F.R. secs. 201.2-212.8
    Regulations promulgated by the U.S. Copyright Office governing copyright registration and other procedures, including regulations regarding the Visual Arts Registry and specific requirements for the registration of pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works.
  • 43 C.F.R. secs. 3.1-3.17, 7.1-7.37, 10.1-10.17
    Regulations from the Department of the Interior regarding cultural property.
  • 45 C.F.R. secs. 1100.1-1160.13
    Regulations related to the National Endowment for the Arts.

U.S. State Law

Fifty-state surveys, below, may also be useful as a research tool for locating a state law on a particular topic.

State & Multi-jurisdictional Research: 50-State Surveys

Fifty-state surveys track a single topic across the statutes (or regulations) of all 50 states.  They usually take the form of a state-by-state table or chart containing the citations to the laws on the given topic in each state, but generally contain little-to-no analysis.  A 50-State Survey will not be available for all topics, but, if there is one, it can serve as a valuable starting point when conducting multi-jurisdictional research on a topic. Check each of the below sources to see if there is a 50-state-survey already compiled for your topic. (Note the date of any 50-state-surveys you find; some updating may be required.)

Note that you can sometimes find multi-state surveys or multi-state issue-trackers online, such as on the websites of law firms or organizations that are interested in tracking specific topics across jurisdictions.  For example, the National Conference of State Legislatures also often has multi-state surveys for statutes or legislation (bill-tracking, etc.) on select topics.

Finally, American Law Reports (ALRs) also track a single, narrow legal issue across all U.S. jurisdictions. They typically include substantive analysis and useful research tools (such as a Table of Laws and cross-references to other secondary sources and research tools). ALRs are available on both Westlaw and Lexis.