An heir claims ownership over his ancestor's painting seventy-years and six months after the death of his ancestor... and the Paris Tribunal seems likely to grant his request. How is it possible? Elementary, my dear Watson.
The legal ownership of artworks spans across a number of legal fields, going beyond intellectual property rights in some cases. As a result, more than one kind of ownership is vested in works of art. Ownership may be conferred by copyright in the graphic representation embodied by the painting, and by (traditional) property law over the painting itself. Unlike copyright-ownership, property-ownership knows no time-limit. As confirmed by a recent decision of the Paris Tribunal, property-ownership may be passed down from one generation to the next without losing its legal force. Old titles may thus come back to haunt collectors, galleries and museums who exhibit works that are otherwise cleared by copyright.
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