Wednesday, 16 April 2008

The value of "looted" cultural artefacts

A documentary film scheduled for release soon will raise key issues over Article 11 of the UNESCO 1970 Convention on cultural objects taken across borders according to Melford Ita ("Africa: The Crown Affair"). He makes an argument that the Nigerian government is owed £350million in back dated royalties for the use of IP rights from colonial looters, following his take on an editorial alluding to Markets and Investments grappling with the interpretation of a copyright law with the British Museum surrounding images of the Queen Idia mask.

Please bear with us whilst we search for the looted picture of the mask alongside

Mr Ita sets his version of facts in chronological form and summarises English law on copyright. His argument about invalidity of the copyright in the photograpgh based on a subsequent UK trade mark registration is not entirely correct, as it assumes that a trade mark registration "overrides" copyright. Similarly, the logic in coming to his royalty figure of £350million is not beyond reproach. However, his article, its style and its conclusion are indicative of the scale of the issue and the emotion which surrounds it.

Article 11 of the UNESCO 1970 Convention on cultural objects declares as illicit, “the export and transfer of ownership of cultural property under compulsion arising directly or indirectly from the occupation of a country by a foreign power.”

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