The COVID-19 pandemic gave a boost to illegal excavations, thefts and illicit trafficking of cultural objects. The UNIDROIT Convention on Stolen or Illegally Exported Cultural Objects answers this problem by providing for the return of stolen and illegally exported cultural objects. The COVID-19 pandemic has created a new era of art trade. Due to the lockdown measures, art trade has been compelled to move to online platforms and this seems to be an irreversible change. UNIDROIT and its partner organisations have to consider the global health crisis as an opportunity to find adequate legal answers to the challenges of the growing online art trade. At the same time, the thriving online shops and auctions enable the sale of stolen and illegally exported cultural property, as well as forgeries, to grow in volume and value. Therefore, a new cutting-edge ‘app’ should be developed in the form of non-binding principles to address the peculiarities of online transactions. Without undertaking to elaborate all the details of the proposed principles of online art trading, this article highlights three key features.

First, from the point of view of the exercise of the due diligence obligation, online transactions cannot be put on the same footing as traditional ones. The peculiarities of online transactions could be addressed by extending the due diligence requirement to sellers and intermediaries under certain circumstances. Second, the principles should declare the invalidity of transactions related to stolen or illegally exported cultural objects. Third, the due diligence requirement could be also extended to authenticity, because, in the case of online transactions, the buyer is less able to check the authenticity of the goods offered. The principles could contribute to the evolving lex culturalis through its ex-ante non-binding regulatory approach and could serve as a model for international and domestic lawmaking.

Recommended Citation

Tamás Szabados, The Global Pandemic as an Opportunity: Towards a Cutting-edge Legal ‘App’ for Online Art Trade, 31 DEPAUL J. OF ART, TECH. & INTELL. PROP. L. 64 (2022).