The artworks transcend their value as mere objects. As for artistic expression, the value of the works is difficult to calculate and often depends on the recognition of the author, its market appreciation, the importance of the piece, its unique and unrepeatable character, its speciality onto the whole artistic production of its creator, etc.
We speak here of a value that is not identified with the cost of materials used, neither the time spent in preparing the piece. The law is aware of the speciality of this type of goods and gives them, therefore, a particular treatment.
The legislation is designed to safeguard both the work itself and the people who hold rights over it, mainly the author and owner.
But at the same time, it is essential to remember that artworks are a cultural manifestation because they are carriers of a number of immaterial, symbolic values that link them with a type of artistic language, a time, a meaning, a history, and a specific society.
There is, therefore, public interest in their protection that explains why the legal systems contain provisions to provide special care to these goods, what sometimes has its impact on the criminal sphere.
From this double point of view, the legislation is designed to safeguard both the work itself and the people who hold rights over it, mainly the author and owner. Private ownership of artworks does not grant unlimited powers to their owner, as there are some limitations that must be respected. These limits fundamentally affect the integrity and preservation of the works. At the same time, the legislation protects the owner against those who might violate these goods and damage them somehow. We must add to this the presence of copyright and the legitimate interests of the creator in the conservation of his works. We cannot forget that injury or damage to works of art also affects values of public interest, so that the public authorities themselves have an interest in their defence, which explains the criminalization of some behaviours.
The legal protection of artworks focuses on issues such as:
► Liability of the owner or a third party in case of damage to the work
► Possibilities of claim by the owner or author of the work in case of damage or deterioration
► Limits of the owner of the work in the use and enjoyment thereof
► Cases of criminal liability for injury or damage to the work
► Types of crimes on works of art and consequences
► Indemnification and compensation for damages
► Liability for damage or deterioration in case of transfer of the work to third parties