Thursday, November 17, 2005

People who need my services but don't know it.

Prospective client 1: Brooke Burke.

According to this New York Times article, Ms. Burke (and other celebrities) have endorsement deals with foreign-based internet gambling sites. These deals are potentially illegal under federal law. Now, I am not a criminal lawyer, but there is a trade law issue here. In March of 2003, Antigua and Barbuda requested WTO consultations with the US to discuss whether US anti-gambling laws prohibiting on-line gambling through sites operated outside the US violated US commitments under the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). In November of 2004, a WTO panel held that the US had, in fact, violated its commitment to permit free trade in services including gaming. So, it would seem that the US might have an incentive to loosen up these laws and Ms. Burke could keep her gig. Unfortunately for her (and the others including Jesse Ventura and James Woods), the US appealed and won in an April 7, 2005 Appellate Body Report. The report says the US can prohibit online gambling under the protection of public morals exception but has to adjust the rules of interstate betting on horse racing.

So, even though just about every state has a lottery and most have casinos of one sort or another, the US can protect the public morals by prohibiting people from playing cards online for money. It is a good thing the US has stepped in here. It would be terrible if the internet were allowed to become a portal through which indecency could be delivered into the homes of right-thinking Americans. Oh wait . . . .

Prospective Client 2: The American Association of Museums and its members.

This is more of a customs issue. This New York Times article discusses the issue museums are facing dealing with claims over the patrimony of cultural properties. This is a really interesting area of law that intersects with customs law because, in the US, CBP's Intellectual Property branch is the enforcement agency.

The underlying problem is that countries can lay claim to historically and culturally significant artifacts through local laws and the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. The local laws basically declare that all artifacts undiscovered at a certain date are the property of the country. Anyone who digs one up and tries to sell it or export it is effectively stealing the artifact. Then, if it is entered into the US, it can be seized as stolen property. Also, the US has a process of recognizing claims by foreign countries through the State Department's activities under the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act. A list of designated protected countries and material can be found here.

As you might imagine, this is all very important to museums, auction houses, and private collectors. The worst case scenario is happening to Marion True, former antiquities curator at the Getty Museum.

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