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The Good Faith Acquisition of Stolen Art


Publication Date: 
July 01, 2008
Book Chapter
Bibliography: John Henry Merryman, The Good Faith Acquisition of Stolen Art, in Crime, Procedure and Evidence in a Comparative Context: Essays in Honour of Professor Mirjan Damaska, John Jackson, Maximo Langer and Peter Tillers, eds., Oxford: Hart Publishing, October 2008 / Stanford Public Law Working Paper, No. 1025515 (July 2008).


Good faith purchasers of stolen goods fare differently in Western legal systems. American rules favor the owner, while the civil law world protects the good faith purchaser. Oddly, this striking difference is misunderstood or denied or both by American scholars. American lawyer-economists who have considered which is the better rule differ in their perceptions and conclusions, as do the positions taken by non-economists. A related difference exists in the application of statutes of limitation in good faith purchaser cases. Proposals that it would be fairer to split the loss seem bound to fail. A solution involving the Art Loss Register and the New York courts' use of the laches doctrine is more promising.