Wednesday 5 June 2013

Distinguished US Lawyer gets it wrong (again)

Washington legal firm Bailey and Ehrenburg offer services in the field of "cultural property" to collectors and other interested parties (such as lobbying for international dugup antiquities dealers' associations). Their star "cultural property" lawyer Peter Tompa seems to have a fixation on antiquarian collectors' prints. At every opportunity he likes to remark that the present writer too is a great fan of the graphic arts. He comments on the fact that I own several late nineteenth and twentieth century Japanese wood block prints:
Of course, these are not archaeological objects, but ones over 100 years old are considered cultural property under the UNESCO Convention
I do wonder why this guy is still in employment. This is simply not true, as any fool who can read can confirm for themselves by reading Article 1 of the 1970 UNESCO Convention, which Tompa himself time and time again (when it suits him) intones "is not self-executing".  It is there in black and white in the text of the document itself, you do not even need to go to any kind of commentary or case law to see how it works. Even the Wongawongans on their little wave-washed island can understand it, while Washington Lawyer Extraordinaire apparently cannot get his head around it.  Read beyond category g(iii) to the bit above it ("For the purposes of this Convention, the term `cultural property' means..." ), then have a look at what the Japanese legislation considers National Treasures and how it is defined and specified (and while you are there, do have a good look at the way the Japanese implemented the Convention after becoming a state party and compare that to the pathetic half-measures adopted by Uncle Sam).  

Let us just say that when he first raised this non-issue several years ago, I ran Mr Tompa's interpretation of Japanese cultural property law not only by the Japanese embassy but also by several US dealers in antiquarian books and prints (getting their addresses from their professional body), the latter were less than complimentary about his arguments and the importance of his snide insinuations.  



Anonymous said...


Paul Barford said...

To understand the sarcasm, you'd have to look at his blog. Where they have no real arguments that they cannot back up, both he and his sidekick engage in name calling, dimissiveness and innuendo.

Check out what he says and what UNESCO 1970 convention says and decide for yourself what CPO represents and to what degree his "observations" have any merit.

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