Handbook on the Law of Cultural Heritage and International Trade
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Handbook on the Law of Cultural Heritage and International Trade

Edited by James A.R. Nafziger and Robert Kirkwood Paterson

This Handbook offers a collection of original writings by leading scholars and practitioners in the exciting, rapidly developing field of cultural heritage law. The detailed essays are the product of a multi-year project of the Committee on Cultural Heritage Law of the International Law Association.
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Chapter 21: United States

James A. R. Nafziger


The legal system of the United States does not specifically regulate the export of cultural material originating in the country. Neither the United States Code nor the Code of Federal Regulations addresses such exports. Instead, the federal government, which otherwise regulates exports, relies heavily on interior enforcement measures as a substitute means of control. As we shall see, these measures include both federal and state laws that regulate the ownership, disposition, and transport of Native American and Native Hawaiian cultural heritage as well as other cultural material found on both public lands and private land to the extent that the laws explicitly provide or are so interpreted. Otherwise, the national policy generally favors unrestricted export of cultural material. In the section on import controls, however, we shall see that the United States has adopted extensive laws and regulations and otherwise assumed major international obligations to bar the importation of stolen and pillaged objects and to restitute or return such objects to their countries of origin. As a so-called market state for cultural material, the country thus plays a major role in global efforts to deter and respond to illegal trafficking in cultural material.

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