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The Good Faith Acquisition of Stolen Art

28 Pages Posted: 31 Oct 2007 Last revised: 29 Sep 2009

John Henry Merryman

Stanford University

Date Written: October 29, 2007


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.

Keywords: art, theft, contract, good faith purchaser

Suggested Citation

Merryman, John Henry, The Good Faith Acquisition of Stolen Art (October 29, 2007). Stanford Public Law Working Paper No. 1025515; Stanford Law and Economics Olin Working Paper No. 364. Available at SSRN: or

John Henry Merryman (Contact Author)

Stanford University ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

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