Assessing the Viability of Blockchain to Impact the Antiquities Trade

24 Pages Posted: 26 Feb 2020

See all articles by Derek Fincham

Derek Fincham

South Texas College of Law Houston

Date Written: June 25, 2019

Abstract

Blockchain, the technology underpinning Bitcoin and other digital currencies, offers promise to shift the gathering and sharing of information in profound ways. It could help form a new kind of financial system that limits current inefficiencies, or even radically change how parties enter into contract, or monitor supply chains. The technology’s distributed ledger allows users in a network to monitor and access peer-to-peer digital transactions in real time. This digital ledger allows users to maintain this information securely by encrypting and allowing access only to those who have permission, given by cryptographic keys.

For the art market, blockchain offers a tantalizing possibility: a verifiable provenance research platform that would eliminate or minimize the problems with title history, authenticity, and looting, which have long-plagued the art and antiquities market. This essay examines whether blockchain might offer a chance for the antiquities market to remedy its persistent problems. The antiquities market has been beleaguered by the sale of forgeries, allowed stolen material to find a market, been hampered by market inefficiencies, and even been a haven for looted archaeological material. Distributed ledgers and blockchain could alleviate or eliminate these problems, but only if the market and those who shape it want to utilize them. No technology, no matter how ingenious or elegant, can end problems caused by the unprincipled actors in the antiquities trade. Such change has to come about with a culture shift and continued pressure by regulators and cultural heritage advocates.

Keywords: blockchain, antiquities trade, art law, cultural property, cultural heritage, art market

Suggested Citation

Fincham, Derek, Assessing the Viability of Blockchain to Impact the Antiquities Trade (June 25, 2019). Cardozo Arts & Entertainment Law Journal, Vol. 37, No. 3, 2019. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3432696

Derek Fincham (Contact Author)

South Texas College of Law Houston ( email )

1303 San Jacinto Street
Houston, TX 77002
United States
9546678328 (Phone)

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