Export Licenses for Ancient Books from Italy Are Suspended.

Until August 15, 2015 anyone owning an old book (in Italy, a book qualifies as an item, which may become relevant with regard to heritage protection if it is older than 50 years) and wanting to export it, would be required to apply for an export license to the competent Region under article 5 of the Italian Heritage Code.

According to article 5 of the Italian Heritage Code, the Italian State agreed to de-centralize heritage protection for privately owned manuscripts, ancient books, prints, maps, book collections, engravings etc. and assigned the protection to the relevant Region (competent for all the items located within its territory).

On August 6, 2015 the Italian Parliament approved the Law No. 125/2015 (transposing the Decree No. 78/2015 into law) on the reorganization of local governmental entities.

The law 125/2015 repeals paragraph 2 of article 5 of the Italian Heritage Code granting the Regions the authority to carry out heritage protection on privately owned manuscripts, ancient books, prints, maps, book collections, which include the power to declare a certain item of cultural interest and to grant export licenses.

Apparently, Regional authorities are still in charge of heritage protection regarding books, manuscripts and archives, but their power is “subject to specific agreements” with the State.

The aim of this legislative reform is to implement standard administrative procedures and criteria throughout the national territory and to ensure the best protection for the bibliographic and archival national heritage.

Alas, the specific agreements with the State have not been made so far and nobody can tell when these agreements will be finalized.

In the meanwhile, the Regional authorities have declared that they no longer have the power to carry out administrative procedures concerning books, manuscripts and archives.

The Italian Regions have announced in their websites that the procedures concerning export licenses, authorizations for restorations, exhibitions or relocation of books, manuscripts and archives are now “suspended”, waiting for further instructions by the Cultural Heritage Ministry.

This situation is causing great distress in the market and trade associations are now requesting to the Ministry to resolve this deadlock situation.

Before depriving the Regions of their powers on such matter, the Italian legislator should have better regulated this transition period.