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From this mornings Chicago Tribune

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I am glad to see that the owner will be getting her viola back.

I sure think that the damage in the long run, had the viola not been returned, out weighed the short term losses that Mr. Peter Zaret would suffer.

Doing the right thing, though in this case expensive, in the long run will pay-off in dividends.

Now let's hope that the original thief doesn't repeat this offense again, and justice can be done for Mr. Zaret.

Also a nice lesson to those who find themselves in a similar situation to Robin Hosemann, in that you should never give up, as her persistence was paid off.

This might be a great time to post these links.

www.maestronet.com/stolen/

www.cozio.com/Stolen

www.thestrad.com/LostStolen

afvbm.org/stolen_instruments

Anyone wish to add some more helpful links?

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What worries me is,does Mr Zaret make a habit of dealing with people he doesnt trust and are known to have stolen instruments from students at Indiana State University??

Anyway, it is Caveat Emptor for Mr. Zaret, and Illegal Conversion of Property for the police; provided the instrument can be proved to be the one stolen.

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I'm surprised there is any question in anybody's mind about whom a piece of stolen property belongs to. I thought it was universally recognized by all states and the federal government of the US that stolen property belongs to the person from whom it was stolen, so long as that person can establish original ownership and can establish that a theft occurred. The buyer of stolen property is simply out the money, I assume, regardless of how much due diligence was done in the purchase of the stolen item.

It's too bad that the Chicago Tribune had to intervene here for the correct legal thing to happen. Sounds like, perhaps, the original owner didn't understand the process she had to go through to retrieve the instrument, and it sounds like the Chicago and Cleveland police were not as helpful as one would hope.

By the way, Indiana State University is a much smaller school in Terre Haute, Indiana, with a much smaller music department than the internationally known School of Music at Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana.

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I am sure that the end result if this went to court would be that the viola would be returned to the owner, if proof could be provided of ownership, which would not be too hard, since she had to have bought it from someone herself in the first place.

Mr. Zaret did the right thing in the end, and so needs to be commended for that, since it is rarer and rarer these days to see someone do something right.

He had to wade through a few different options to arrive at the solution he came to. Not everyone would be able to do that.

Perhaps in the future we will see micro-chipping come into play in resolving rightful ownership more often in such cases.

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Mr. Zaret did the right thing in the end, and so needs to be commended for that, since it is rarer and rarer these days to see someone do something right.

He had to wade through a few different options to arrive at the solution he came to. Not everyone would be able to do that.

Are you kidding me? The "Whats Your Problem?" segment is there to embarrass "slimy" people into doing the right thing because they would have gone the other way if they were not in the spotlight. He shouldn't be commended for anything.

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Are you kidding me? The "Whats Your Problem?" segment is there to embarrass "slimy" people into doing the right thing because they would have gone the other way if they were not in the spotlight. He shouldn't be commended for anything.

And if the spotlight still didn't result in the return of the viola, what would you do then? De-commend him for something? :)

It really doesn't matter how you get to where you are going, as long as you arrive at the right destination ... all in one piece.

A viola returned is a viola returned.

How did Willie put it again?

Oh yes, "All's Well That Ends Well". :)

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....The buyer of stolen property is simply out the money, I assume, regardless of how much due diligence was done in the purchase of the stolen item....

I assume that Mr. Zaret has a valid legal claim against the person he bought the viola from. And that person, assuming he or she is not the thief, has a valid legal claim against the person he or she bought it from. And so on. Collecting on these claims is likely to be difficult.

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I assume that Mr. Zaret has a valid legal claim against the person he bought the viola from. And that person, assuming he or she is not the thief, has a valid legal claim against the person he or she bought it from. And so on. Collecting on these claims is likely to be difficult.

++++++++++++++

It was a chain of events that happened for many many years. The last person is just as legal as anyone.

Supposed the maker who did not pay the tonewood in full. The supplier could claim the instrument should belong to him too. Right?

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The last person is just as legal as anyone.

No. Everyone in the chain of custody does not have equal legal standing. There is one person who has no valid legal claim against anyone else -- the thief

Supposed the maker who did not pay the tonewood in full. The supplier could claim the instrument should belong to him too. Right?

No. The tonewood supplier would have a claim equal to the value of the wood, but not a valid claim to the ownership of the viola.

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Anyone who has legal problems with bowed instruments may be well to consult a real lawyer who specializes in such cases, such as Zak Moen, who posts from time to time here on Maestronet.

www.zvmlaw.com

And if your soundpost falls over while you are in his office, it's nice to know he also is a 'maker in the making' too.

apprenticeviolinmaker.blogspot.com

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Anyone who has legal problems with bowed instruments may be well to consult a real lawyer who specializes in such cases, such as Zak Moen, who posts from time to time here on Maestronet.

www.zvmlaw.com

And if your soundpost falls over while you are in his office, it's nice to know he also is a 'maker in the making' too.

apprenticeviolinmaker.blogspot.com

Thanks NewNewbie. The issue of who owns stolen art has arisen frequently in recent years in connection with art that was taken by the Nazis during WWII. As with most things legal, there are always exceptions to every rule, and it depends on which country and state's law applies, but I think Brad's statements above are correct. My understanding of the basic common law rule in the U.S. is that an individual cannot pass better title than s/he has and that a buyer can't acquire a better title than the seller holds. Because the thief does not have title to stolen goods, s/he cannot pass title to the buyer, and the buyer cannot pass title to a subsequent buyer. Thus, the original owner from whom the item was stolen has superior title to all subsequent purchasers. However, subsequent bona fide purchasers would have a claim against the person who sold it to them, back down the chain of title -- in the case of selling a violin, which is likely governed by Article 2 of the Uniform Commercial Code, the bona fide purchaser's claim against the seller would be for breach of the implied warranty of title. As a comparison to show why it matters which country's law applies, my limited understanding of Swiss law is that it would treat the situation much differently and hold that the bona fide purchaser of stolen property acquires title that is superior to that of the original owner.

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What steps can a purchaser take to protect themselves if they should buy an item that had been previously stolen? Would a written detailed description of the item help, or detailed identification of the seller, signed by both parties?

Scott

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The fundamental necessary protection would be to avoid buying from people who are "judgment proof"--meaning people who do not have the financial holdings (a business, a home, perhaps related insurance, etc.) to make a judgment by the court enforceable.

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I don't know, this all sounds weird to me.

Do violin shops over there (the US of A) buy stuff from just any old body that drops in the front door? No certificates of ownership or provenance?

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What steps can a purchaser take to protect themselves if they should buy an item that had been previously stolen? Would a written detailed description of the item help, or detailed identification of the seller, signed by both parties?

Scott

Thats a good question, and I'm not sure that I know of a good answer. Obviously, if you are dealing with suspicious sellers, as the Tribune Article said that Mr. Zaret believed he was, it may be best to avoid such sellers if you want to avoid the risk. It is best to deal with people who you know and trust (or at least who have the money to compensate you if you are required to sue them). Otherwise, the best thing to do is probably to investigate as much as possible, including getting as much information and documentation about the instrument's history and ownership as possible from the seller and other sources.

There are also several online sources that may be helpful, in addition to simple Google searches, although none of the sites is comprehensive or entirely reliable. Each state maintains a database of UCC filings (many are online), and in some cases, the owners of stolen property that is valuable will file notice of the theft (in the form of a lien) with the state's UCC office. However, whether such a filing is made is far from uniform, and each state maintains its own database of UCC filings that has to be searched, so it is not a perfect solution. The art world maintains online databases of stolen art (see http://www.artloss.com) -- I have seen several sites like this in the violin world, including Maestronet, but none seem to be comprehensive. Interpol also maintains a database of stolen art with password access (www.interpol.int) -- I'm not sure whether they include stolen instruments.

"Title insurance" policies are also available in the art world. Again, I'm not sure whether such policies are available or common in the violin world.

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Do violin shops over there (the US of A) buy stuff from just any old body that drops in the front door? No certificates of ownership or provenance?

Yes, in my experience as (usually) a seller. I have been selling instruments and bows to other dealers and violin shops all over the United States, as well as a few in Canada and the United Kingdom, for about 20 years. It has all been relatively low-priced stuff -- I probably never received over $2000 for an individual item. This has mostly taken place at the Boston twice-a-year instrument auction weekends where all the regular buyers and sellers more or less know each other. But occasionally I have sold something to (or bought something from) someone I've never met before and who I've never seen again.

The one exception is a dealer from New Jersey. Every time I sell him something, even if it's only for $100, he has me sign a form that says I have clear title to the item, that I have the right to sell it, that the title I am conveying is unemcumbered and that I will warrant and defend the title against all claims.

Does it work differently for you in South Africa?

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Yes, in my experience as (usually) a seller. I have been selling instruments and bows to other dealers and violin shops all over the United States, as well as a few in Canada and the United Kingdom, for about 20 years. It has all been relatively low-priced stuff -- I probably never received over $2000 for an individual item. This has mostly taken place at the Boston twice-a-year instrument auction weekends where all the regular buyers and sellers more or less know each other. But occasionally I have sold something to (or bought something from) someone I've never met before and who I've never seen again.

The one exception is a dealer from New Jersey. Every time I sell him something, even if it's only for $100, he has me sign a form that says I have clear title to the item, that I have the right to sell it, that the title I am conveying is unemcumbered and that I will warrant and defend the title against all claims.

Does it work differently for you in South Africa?

I guess it's different in the sense that crime is so prevalent here that anybody in the instrument retail business would have to have his head read to buy something from an unknown person who just drops in with the item. If such an item turns out to be stolen it's big trouble for the buyer, who will be criminally charged with "receiving stolen goods". The buyer will have to prove his innocence in court, which will have to include providing proof that a reasonable effort was made to establish that the goods were not stolen. That's hard to do unless you can provide some acceptable form of legal title. As far as the law is concerned over here, if this wasn't done, it is pretty much an admission of receiving stolen goods. There are a few such instances in the legal system over here where the onus is on the accused to prove his/her innocence (as opposed to the state having to prove guilt). Another is, for instance, possessing illegal drugs - or even being in close proximity of drugs. If you are sitting in a parked car and drugs are found on the road under the car, you have to prove you didn't put it there.

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